Dear Mr. Voyles,
In your recent Arizona Republic editorial, you wisely called for a broader, forward-looking discussion on the future of the jaguar and other wildlife in Arizona, given our rapidly growing human population.
However, talk alone will not save the jaguar. This is abundantly clear after more than a decade of AGFD led stakeholder meetings on jaguar conservation. Strong leadership and bold decision-making by your agency are now needed.
The story of the Arizona jaguar known as Macho B can benefit conservation only if the facts of his tragic death are made fully transparent, and only if AGFD fully commits itself to the goal of restoring the species. For example, why was snare trapping permitted in areas known to be used by Macho B, an exceptionally old individual? Did AGFD assess the risk of injury or death to him, in the event he was caught? And why did it not require state biologists to use box or “culvert” traps instead of snares, so that Macho B could be released promptly without need for drug immobilization and handling. Evidence shows that Macho B’s capture contributed to, if not caused, his death.
You should suspend any plans AGFD may have to capture other jaguars in Arizona. The risk of injuring or killing another rare jaguar cannot be justified, certainly not in the name of science. The jaguar’s future in Arizona does not depend on data from a radio-collared individual or two, but rather on a clear commitment by our state wildlife agency to recover the species.
We urge AGFD to vigorously protect what remains of jaguar habitat, particularly wildlife movement corridors in the southern part of our state. These have been identified by wildlife scientists, including some in your agency. They are seriously threatened by urban sprawl and other factors. If these habitat “linkages” are severed, the jaguar will be gone forever, and other large mammals, including game species, will be at risk.
AGFD should also evaluate options for rebuilding jaguar numbers through reintroduction. To avoid the pitfalls of agency politics, an independent authority, such as the American Society of Mammalogists or the Society for Conservation Biology, should conduct this study.
Finally, please make every effort to work with the federal government to allow movement of jaguars and other wildlife across the US-Mexico border. There are options for controlling illegal human access to Arizona other than permanent barrier fencing that blocks wildlife.
Tony Povilitis, Ph.D.
Jaguar Habitat Campaign