For Immediate Release
Final Jaguar Plan Inadequate for Recovery of Species in US
TUCSON, Ariz. (April 24, 2019) – Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released their final recovery plan for the jaguar. This plan, dated in 2018 but just released today, comes over two decades after the cat was granted protection under the Endangered Species Act and does not allot enough suitable habitat for recovery in the United States.
Rob Peters, senior Southwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife, issued this statement:
“The final recovery plan fails to provide protection and recovery for jaguars in the U.S. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service arbitrarily put the northern boundary of the jaguar recovery area at Interstate 10, ignoring millions of acres of suitable habitat to the north. Defenders asks the Service to evaluate all strategies to bring female jaguars and include all suitable habitat in the jaguar’s recovery area.
“The Service has essentially passed off its responsibility to recover the U.S. population onto Mexico. If the same no-can-do attitude had been taken when the bald eagle was disappearing from the continental U.S., it’s unlikely the eagle would have recovered in the Lower 48.”
The jaguar is native to parts of the Southwestern United States and has been fully protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1997. Long considered extirpated in the U.S., since 1996 at least seven jaguars been spotted in the mountains of southern Arizona and New Mexico.
These have been migrating male jaguars, likely from a population 100 miles south of the border in Sonora, Mexico. Female jaguars, by nature, are less likely to make the long trip across the hazardous borderlands. Therefore, to establish a breeding population in the U.S. may require reintroducing females. Translocation – moving animals – could help establish both females and males when dispersal is cut off by major highways or further development of the border wall.
This final recovery plan, sets the northern boundary for the jaguar recovery area artificially at Interstate 10, arbitrarily excluding large amounts of habitat north of I-10 where jaguars could thrive. One scientist concluded that, including habitat north of I-10, the national forests in Arizona and New Mexico could support more than nearly 250 jaguars.
Defenders of Wildlife and Jaguar Recovery:
Defenders of Wildlife has been involved in jaguar recovery for over 20 years, including protecting critical habitat for jaguars from damaging mining projects and helping jaguars coexist with ranchers. In response to Defenders’ joint lawsuit, a federal judge affirmed in 2017 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s critical habitat designation in 2014 for 764,207 acres of habitat for endangered jaguars in southern Arizona and New Mexico.
In 2017, Defenders published a report on U.S. jaguar recovery, Bringing El Tigre Home, which gives an overview of jaguars in the U.S. and the ecological, economic and aesthetic benefits of their recovery.
A 2018 report by Defenders, In the Shadow of the Wall, details how the border wall harms wildlife highlighted the jaguar and notes that if the wall is completed along the Arizona and New Mexico border it will spell the end for natural jaguar recovery in the U.S.
To bring these big cats back from the brink of extinction in the U.S., Defenders of Wildlife asks FWS to include all suitable U.S. habitat in the jaguar’s recovery area, including habitat north of Interstate 10; protect important movement corridors, both across the border and across Interstate 10; and evaluate all strategies to bring female jaguars to the U.S.
Defenders of Wildlife has also produced a short video detailing some of the findings in the report, which can be viewed here.
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.