Archive for the ‘HOT SPOTS’ Category

Biologically-sound standards are needed for recovering endangered wildlife in USA

May 25, 2013

The Society for Conservation Biology (SCB), a leading professional organization for conservation science, has asked the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) to apply scientific criteria for endangered species recovery under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). We hope the agency will quickly adopt these sensible standards.  

For the jaguar, it’s really quite simple:  Restore a significant presence of the great cat in the U.S., consistent with historical records. Although the USFWS is finally working on a “recovery plan” (can you believe 16 years after the jaguar was placed on the U.S. endangered list!), it suggests we need not worry much about jaguar restoration at home: all that’s needed is survival of the jaguar within its current northern range, which is almost entirely in Mexico!

Before being shot, poisoned, and trapped to near extinction in the U.S., the jaguar ranged across portions of the Southwest and Texas, with outlying reports as far north as Colorado and east to the Appalachian Mountains. 

SCB believes that the proper geographic context for species recovery involves distinct ecoregions within which species historically occurred. Clearly, jaguars ranged in the U.S. across a set of biological communities entirely different from those found elsewhere.  What’s more, the main purpose of the ESA is to restore native wildlife in the U.S.A., not elsewhere (where, of course, we can help in a more limited way, first and foremost by setting a good example).

Improving standards for endangered species recovery in the U.S., as the SCB urges, may help change USFWS’s outlook on the meaning of “jaguar recovery.” It’s time to bring home the jaguar.

jaguar01BBC site

REPORT CARD for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Fall 2011

October 1, 2011

On Efforts to Recover the Southwest Jaguar

It’s the job of the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to restore the nation’s endangered wildlife. So how well is it doing with the jaguar? In April 2010 we offered the Service a set of recommendations for bringing back the jaguar. The “Citizens’ Statement” was endorsed by nearly 1,000 individuals and organizations. 

Here’s our report on each of the recommendations (the grading scale is A, excellent; B, good; C, fair; D, poor; and F, failing):

#1. Protect habitat linkages. Grade: D
We asked that the Service begin a comprehensive effort with counties, highway departments, public land managers, private landowners, conservation organizations, and others to ensure that “travel corridors” for the jaguar are protected.

In November 2010, Service officials in Arizona and New Mexico accepted a field trip invitation to inspect threatened habitat corridors in southern Arizona considered vital for the jaguar.  Since then officials have collaborated with conference-call discussions on protecting habitat linkages for jaguar as well as the endangered Mexican wolf and ocelot.  The exchange of ideas and information is proving useful, but no serious staff time or resources on the part of the Service are being devoted to the task.  In FWS policy circles there’s been a lot of talk and proclamations about the need for what is called connectivity conservation, but these have yet to yield on-the-ground work to protect linkage habitat for jaguar and the other wild carnivores of the Southwest.  For now we give the Service a “D” as opposed to a failing grade hoping that concerns and words may soon be followed by concrete conservation actions.

#2. Conserve our wild lands. Grade: D
We asked the Service to lead a concerted effort to protect the integrity of “core habitat areas” for the jaguar.  Wild land areas as well as habitat linkages needed for jaguar recovery in the U.S. should receive special conservation attention by the Service as “critical habitat.”

There is still no overall plan to safeguard habitat for the jaguar in the Southwest (the jaguars was officially listed as an endangered species of the US in 1997). Yet threats to jaguar habitat are tremendous and growing, as noted elsewhere on this website. Threats range from urban sprawl and highway construction to proposals for extensive hardrock mining and power transmission networks.  The Service needs to develop a comprehensive strategy for conserving jaguar habitat in collaboration with other agencies and the private sector.  We are hopeful that the Service, which is now preparing a formal recovery plan for the jaguar, may do so. After more than a decade of delays, a proposal identifying critical jaguar habitat and measures to protect it is promised by spring 2012. 

#3. Ensure that jaguars can roam freely between the US and Mexico.  Grade: F
We recommended that the Service engage the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in recovery planning to limit barrier fencing and avoid construction sites and high intensity activities in areas that may be traversed by jaguars.    

The Service has not been an effective advocate for reducing the harm to jaguars and other wildlife from US-Mexico fence barriers. Some might argue that it can’t stick its neck out politically on this one. But its parent agency, the US Department of Interior, could not even secure the tens of millions of dollars allocated by Congress to mitigate or compensate for harmful border impacts, as most of that money slipped away in the last appropriations bill. Those funds that were available were not used to allow jaguars and other wildlife to move freely through key habitat areas, or to purchase conservation lands or easements for jaguar near the border. Money available for jaguar in Arizona was earmarked to “survey and monitor jaguars and their habitat.”  What  upsidedown priorities! The Service should focus more on protecting habitat (before it’s gone) and less on more field studies (the easy route politically). In Texas at least, the Service requested about fence 100 openings for wildlife, and these, however small, were incorporated into the fence…But not in Arizona, home of America’s last wild jaguars.  

#4. Pursue joint recovery efforts with Mexico. Grade: C
We encouraged the Service to propose an international conservation area for the borderlands that would protect the jaguar and other wildlife while enhancing relations and security between our two countries.  

The Service has put together a Jaguar Recovery Team that includes biologists from Mexico as well as the U.S.  The goal is to produce a binational recovery plan for the jaguar, a species long part of the deserts and mountains of both the southern U.S. and northern Mexico.  We hope the plan will include recommendations for a bi-national park or biosphere reserve.  Private efforts by the US-based Northern Jaguar Project and the Mexican conservation organization  Naturalia have thus far lead the way with purchase of lands for a 45,000 acre Jaguar Reserve not far from the US border (with contributions from many sources, including the US Fish and Wildlife Service Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act).  U.S. and Mexican wildlife agencies together should seize the opportunity to expand the vision and scope of this effort.

#5. Develop the option to rebuild jaguar numbers and range through reintroduction.  Grade: None yet.

We asked the Service to fully consider reintroduction if natural migration of jaguars from Mexico, particularly females, appears unlikely in the foreseeable future.

We trust that this important option to help reestablish the jaguar in the U.S. will be fully and fairly evaluated in the forthcoming jaguar recovery plan.

#6.  Act now.  Grade: D
We called upon the Service to provide extraordinary leadership and move with utmost urgency in developing and implementing a jaguar recovery program.

The good news is that the Service now has recovery planning for the jaguar underway, albiet forced by a court decision in 2009.
But it remains to be seen whether the agency fully embraces the concept of restoring the jaguar to the US, and carries out with a sense of urgency necessary steps as outlined in the Citizens’ Statement.


There’s need for improvement! 

OP-ED calls for Jaguar Recovery Plan

March 3, 2010

Albuquerque Journal

February 26, 2010

Speak Up for the Jaguar in 2010!

January 18, 2010

You can contact Mr. Rowan W. Gould, Acting Director of the US Fish & Wildlife Service, telling him of your support for the Service’s recent decision to prepare a recovery plan for the jaguar. You might urge the Service to quickly follow through with a solid program to restore the jaguar as a native species of the U.S., and that, in this regard, it adopt the recommendations of Dr. Anthony Povilitis, head of the Jaguar Habitat Campaign. 

Mr. Gould’s mailing address is: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 1849 C Street, NW, Washington, DC 20240. You can also send a similar message to Gould’s boss: Ken L. Salazar, US Secretary of the Interior, at that same address.

If you prefer, you can post a message for Mr. Gould on the US Fish & Wildlife Service website (contact page).  You can also send a message to Secretary Salazar via his agency’s email address:

And let President Obama know that you appreciate this improvement in US wildlife policy:

Barack Obama, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20500.  You can also send a message to the White House electronically.

Urgent Appeal to Conservation Biologists

December 9, 2009

The US Fish & Wildlife Service is in the process of deciding on whether to end its  long neglect of the jaguar and develop a recovery plan and protection for  jaguar habitat in the U.S.

Please contact Mr. Gary Frazer of the Service’s endangered species office in support of a new, progress policy for the jaguar. For details, please read our appeal to wildlife biologists, zoologists, and other professionals working in the field of conservation biology. Dr. Tony Povilitis of the Jaguar Habitat Campaign spoke with Gary Frazer on December 7, and encourages others to contact him at this critical time.

Related professional news:  

The American Society of Mammalogists strongly supports a recovery program to restore the jaguar as a native species of the U.S., passing a resolution to that effect in 2007. Read its recent letter to the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Dr. Brian Miller and Dr. Howard Quigley, big cat biologists, have also been urging the US Fish & Wildlife Service to develop a recovery plan and create a scientific team for the jaguar.  They envision a recovery area extending from northern Arizona and New Mexico to the Mexican states of Sonora and Sinaloa. If you’d like copies of their memos please contact Dr. Tony Povilitis at

Biologist Dave Parsons, who headed the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program for 9 years, also encourages the US Fish & Wildlife Service to move ahead with a recovery program for the jaguar. Read his message to Mr. Frazer.

Campaign seeks Jaguar Recovery Plan

November 25, 2009

In November presentations at Prescott College (Prescott, Arizona) and the Carnivores Conference 2009 (Defenders of Wildlife, Denver), Dr. Tony Povilitis, head of the Jaguar Habitat Campaign, urged conservationists to press hard for a recovery program for the jaguar under the US Fish & Wildlife Service. His talks, emphasizing related policy issues and advocacy, focused on the need for the Service to begin the program. Recovery programs  are normally required for wildlife, such as the jaguar, that are on the US endangered species list.  The jaguar was so listed over a dozen years ago, but still does have even a federal recovery plan.

Dr. Povilitis recently wrote a letter to the US Fish & Wildlife Service director, Mr. Sam Hamilton, requesting on meeting on jaguar policy. His office was kind enough to arrange a forthcoming discussion between Mr. Gary Frazer, Assistance Director for Endangered Species, and Dr. Povilitis. We’re hoping for positive results!

Arizona official taken to task

October 20, 2009
Jaguar Habitat Campaign Responds To Divisive Comments by Game Official
(Arizona Daily Star, Oct.18).
See our letter to the Director of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and letters by Drs. Tony Povilitis and Dusti Becker to the Arizona Daily Star.

US Fish & Wildlife Service Open To Jaguar Captures

August 3, 2009


We asked the Director of the US Fish & Wildlife Service not to permit study-related capture of wild jaguars in the United States, given the recent tragic death of “Macho B,” uncertain capture-related risks, and the extreme rarity of the animals. Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle responded by saying that, while the agency currently has no permit applications to capture jaguars, it would nevertheless consider such. He did not provide our requested conservation justification for authorizing wild jaguar captures for research purposes.  Read: our letter and the FWS reply .

Jaguar Capture Debate

June 17, 2009

Macho B in snare2Controversy heats up…

Should wildlife researchers be allowed to capture Southwest jaguars for study, given the risk of injury or death to the extremely rare animals? After the capture-related death of “Macho B” in Arizona earlier this year, we asked the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to suspend its authorization of the activity.

 We applaud The Arizona Daily Star (Tucson) for questioning the practice, and reporting on other recent research-related deaths of jaguars in nearby Mexico.

 The capture and handling of Southwest jaguars, a critically endangered species, can be justified only in terms of essential conservation benefits, clearly absent in this case.

 We are requesting written justification from the Service for continuing authorization of jaguar captures (Ltr to USFWS_6-17-09).

Challenge to Arizona Game and Fish Department

March 10, 2009

We challenge the Arizona Game and Fish Department to take the lead, as Arizona’s public wildlife agency, to secure habitat for jaguar in southern Arizona over the next 3-5 years, and to commit to restoring the jaguar as a native species of the Southwest. Read our letters to AGFD and their replies:


jhc-ltr-12-15-08   agfd-reply-1-6-09

jhc-ltr-7-7-08  agfd-reply-10-15-08