The lack of published records about the jaguar in the State of Mexico and concerns about whether this animal may have become extinct in the forests of the 260-square-mile (674-square-kilometer) Sierra Nanchititla Natural Reserve led to researchers from the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico (UAEM) and the University of Alicante, Spain, successfully seeking out and monitoring the feline, according to a news release about the project.
The jaguar has become in danger of extinction in recent decades, due to the fragmentation and deterioration of its habitat, as well as hunting and illegal animal smuggling, the release said. “As a result of this vulnerability, no individuals have been seen in the centre of Mexico since the start of the 20th Century.”
The Mexican-Spanish research project, published recently in the journal The Southwestern Naturalist, includes the first documented recording of the species Panthera onca in the center of Mexico, in the Río Balsas river basin.
“The photographs provide information about new recording sites, and allow us to deduce that the area where the animal was observed may be a corridor connecting jaguar populations,” said Octavio Monroy-Vilchis, lead author and a researcher at UAEM.
The researchers carried out 86 interviews with inhabitants of villages near the study area between October 2002 and December 2004. They also collected feline dropping samples and installed automatic photographic detection systems.
“Even though not one of the interviews mentioned sightings of jaguars, we obtained three photographs of a male, and ten of the 132 excrement samples found have been attributed to the jaguar,” Monroy-Vilchis said.
The fact that the animal was captured on camera at 1,845 meters [6,000 feet] “supports the theory that jaguars travel along the sides of mountains because their habitat has been fragmented by hunting and other human activities,” the scientist said.
“According to members of the local Wildlife Conservation Society,” the news release added, “the general area of the Río Balsas river basin is a priority area for verifying the presence of jaguars, since this could act as a corridor for them to move around.”
Fifteen other areas in Mexico have been identified as potentially crucial for the long-term survival of jaguars, the news release said. It is not known whether the felines exist in these regions or, if they do, whether or not their populations are stable and their habitat is adequate to support them.
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