Welcome Green Monsters! We're your online guide to making conscious choices that help people, animals and the planet.
single

The Pantanal region of Brazil is the largest tropical wetland in the world. Making up a significant section of the Amazon rainforest due to the unique ecosystem in place there, Pantanal is home to an incredibly broad and diverse area of plants and animals. Among these many species lives the jaguar. The habitat that Pantanal fosters within its bounds is ideal for the jaguar and as a result the highest densities of jaguar in the world can be found in this tropical wetland.

However, while Pantanal may appear a pristine paradise in which this jungle cat can thrive, there is a persistent threat that is making it’s survival all the more difficult. It probably wasn’t a far jump for you to guess that this threat was of the human kind, but what may surprise you to know is that the main threat to the Pantanal jaguar is cattle ranching. Yes, cattle ranching is even a prevalent problem in the world’s largest tropical wetland. Shocked as we were? Just hold on.

What Cattle Ranching and the Loss of Jaguars has to do With Species Extinction in the Amazon Rainforest Steve Winter/Panthera

Cattle Encroachment

Christine Hodgdon of Rainforest Trust explains to OGP, “ranching has existed in the Pantanal for nearly 200 years.”

Meaning while ranching may not be a new development in the region, it is clear that the cattle ranching is more than just a small-scale operation. Hodgdon continues, “Ninety-eight percent of the Pantanal is privately owned and 80 percent of those lands are used as cattle ranches. These ranches – there are about 2,500 – hold nearly 8 million heads of cattle.”

What Cattle Ranching and the Loss of Jaguars has to do With Species Extinction in the Amazon Rainforest Steven Winter/Panthera
 

As more people and industry are introduced to Pantanal, naturally habitat degradation becomes a pervasive issues. As the jaguar loses its native forest, it too loses its primary food source.

“Due to a significant loss in jaguar habitat and natural prey such as deer, pigs, and tapirs, jaguars have been forced to prey on domestic animals such as cattle,” says Hodgdon.

What Cattle Ranching and the Loss of Jaguars has to do With Species Extinction in the Amazon Rainforest Steve Winter/Panthera
 

And therein lies the issue. Not only is the jaguar endangered by habitat loss, but resulting from said loss they are pushed onto ranching lands (where they have 8 million different dinner options) and become a threat to ranching operations. When this happens, the rancher sees the jaguar as a threat and the jaguar is often killed on sight.

However, since the jaguar population is dense in Pantanal, when one jaguar is killed, there are many more that come to attempt the same mission and are also killed, fueling a vicious circle.

What Happens When We Lose the Jaguar…

Hodgdon tells OGP, “Jaguars are top predators and their presence is typically used as a measure of ecosystem health.”

What Cattle Ranching and the Loss of Jaguars has to do With Species Extinction in the Amazon Rainforest Steve Winter/Panthera
 

If the jaguar is removed from the balance of this tropical ecosystem, then like dominoes, the other species begin to collapse. In addition, when the jaguar’s habitat is destroyed the same negative impact felt by the jaguar is shared with prey and other species down the line, so there is really a two-fold problem at work in Pantanal.

Given the number of animals native to the Pantanal region that are on the IUCN Redlist, it is apparent that the disappearance of habitat and the jaguar is being felt. Here are just five…

White-Lipped Peccary: IUCN Category Vulnerable

What Cattle Ranching and the Loss of Jaguars has to do With Species Extinction in the Amazon Rainforest

Lowland Tapir: IUCN Category Vulnerable. Pantanal is the Stronghold for This Species and it is Rapidly Declining.

What Cattle Ranching and the Loss of Jaguars has to do With Species Extinction in the Amazon Rainforest

Giant Anteater: IUCN Category Vulnerable

What Cattle Ranching and the Loss of Jaguars has to do With Species Extinction in the Amazon Rainforest

Giant Otter: IUCN Category Endangered

What Cattle Ranching and the Loss of Jaguars has to do With Species Extinction in the Amazon Rainforest

Hyacinth Macaw: IUCN Category Vulnerable

What Cattle Ranching and the Loss of Jaguars has to do With Species Extinction in the Amazon Rainforest

 

What’s Next…

These species are only a small snapshot of what will be lost if habitat degradation related to cattle ranching and other human activities continue to expand in Pantanal. If the apex predator, the jaguar is wiped out entirely then the health of the ecosystem is devastated beyond repair.

As Hodgdon says,”If jaguars cannot survive and thrive in an area like the Pantanal, where natural conditions heavily favor them, there is little hope they can do so elsewhere.”

Further, Hodgdon explains that, even if the expansion of ranching were to stop, “the most immediate difficulty for jaguars in respect to ranching stems from the negative views ranchers hold of them.”

As long as the ranchers view the jaguar as a threat, they will continue to be hunted.

“If a sustainable solution to this problem is not found and jaguars continue to be hunted extensively we risk losing perhaps the most important jaguar population remaining,” Hodgdon tells OGP.

Logically, if the habitat of the jaguar and the many other species within the jaguar’s ecosystem were allowed ample space to exist and thrive, they would make up a self-sustaining system in which the jaguar would have no need to encroach upon ranching territory.

Where Conservation Meets Economic Interests

Seeing this as the only viable solution to save the Pantanal jaguar, Rainforest Trust is working with a conservation partner to obtain the 24,640-acre Jofre Velho Ranch and transform it into a Private Natural Heritage Reserve. Together with two more adjacent reserves, the area solidified by this ranch property will encompass 540 square miles of conservation area.

Hodgdon tells OGP, “[the creation of a Private Natural Heritage Reserve] is also a key step in a larger plan to create a jaguar corridor along the Cuiaba River that will protect nearly 869 square miles, making it among the largest intact jaguar corridors in the world.”

However, this is not a simple problem with a simple solution, so Rainforest Trust and their partner also have plans to set up a research station in which to study the jaguar and jaguar-human conflicts in an effort to improve cattle management practices and help increase the jaguar’s numbers.

Not to mention the economic viability of preserving the ecosystem of the Pantanal, “The presence of jaguars and many others species makes the Pantanal an extremely appealing tourism destination,” Hodgdon continues, “By monetizing jaguars’ presence, eco-tourism can provide supplementary income for local ranchers and farmers, making live jaguars more valuable than dead ones and reducing hunting rates. Income generated through tourism will also offer communities in the Pantanal an opportunity to preserve their environment and cultural traditions.”

Because, the jaguar is the ailing synecdoche representative of the greater issues facing the whole.

Hodgden tells OGP, “[The jaguar] symbolize wilderness and the spirit of wild areas. Even today, their intelligence, mysterious qualities, and beauty inspire people with awe and respect.  They are the most powerful ambassadors we have for nature throughout Latin America. If we lose jaguars, we lose an incredible ally in our mission to save wild places. ”

What Cattle Ranching and the Loss of Jaguars has to do With Species Extinction in the Amazon Rainforest Steve Winter/Panthera
 

By saving the jaguar, this project will  break the vicious cycles of destruction previously in place in the Pantanal, rebuilding a broken ecosystem and repairing the damage done to the environment as well as the many species that call this tropical wetland home.

To learn more about Rainforest Trust’s project in Pantanal, click here. To make a donation to help them protect the jaguar and the delicate habitat of the Pantanal, follow this link.

Lead image source: Steve Winter/Panthera

See something, Say something. Bookmark, share and help further build our directory of Animal Rescue Hotlines and let's be prepared to help animals today!

Browse through some recent posts below:

Deforestation, Human Rights Abuse, Animal Extinction and the One Industry That Unites Them All

The Many Victims of the Palm Oil Industry

Here’s What Zoo Animals Have to Say About Life in a Cage

Here's What Zoo Animals Have to Say About Life in a Cage

What You Need to Know About Ocean Acidification and How it Affects You

What You Need to Know About Ocean Acidification and How it Effects You

These Animals are the Faces of the Sixth Extinction

The Faces of the 6th Extinction

Disclosure: One Green Planet accepts advertising, sponsorship, affiliate links and other forms of compensation, which may or may not influence the advertising content, topics or articles written on this site. Click here for more information.

0 comments on “What Does Eating Beef Have to Do With Species Extinction?”

Sign on with:
Click to add comment
MitchMars
2 Months Ago

A prime example of the connection between food selection, environment, ie. hydrology or water management, and wildlife.
The jaguar is a keystone species for forest health. Brazil has enriched private landowners at the expense of her greatest natural resource, and is ruining the lives of all who live in and rely on the forests to provide their subsistence. Brazil has long gone beyond wise forest management. Go into any super market around the globe, and take note of caned beef as a "product of Brazil." The entire country is at risk in consequence of the massive cattle ranches replacing all else in its wake. It is only a matter of time when the citizens of Brazil will have to come to terms with these land barons and the destruction they are causing by their industry.


Reply
Astrid
2 Months Ago

Excelent article!


Reply


Subscribe to our Newsletter




Follow us on


Do Not Show This Again

×

Submit to OneGreenPlanet


Terms & Conditions ×