In the 1970’s jaguars were nearly hunted to extinction for their beautiful fur coats and parts. It wasn’t until 1975 that jaguars were listed on Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), ending the international trade. Historically, jaguars were almost impossible to find and observe, mainly due to the environments in which they exist. Marvelously camouflaged fur, combined with Brazil’s dense forest, has made this animal isolated and mysterious.
The lush rivers and tributaries of the Porto Jofre Pantanal are the ideal habitat for jaguars and the area holds the world’s largest jaguar populations. Depending on the season, daily jaguar viewing is possible and becoming increasingly profitable for the local economy. In 2015, the minimum value generated by jaguar-based nature tourism between seven stakeholders was 7 million dollars.
Contrary to public belief, the amazing jaguar observation opportunities presented within the Northern Pantanal did not just happen overnight. Local fishermen have unintentionally acclimatized jaguars to the movement and noise of small boats through years of co-existence. The reclusive cats are inherently shy and secretive animals, but the growing interaction between humans and jaguars has enabled the animals to relax around the boats full of eager wildlife enthusiasts. As a result, the cohabitation of humans and jaguars in addition to the superb ecological surroundings visitors are exposed to an unparalleled jaguar observing experience.
Each day new flora and fauna are documented in the Pantanal. Researchers have found a near limitless source of undiscovered life and a critical species here, such as the jaguar, Panthera onca, one of the region’s keystone species. Because they are an apex predator, jaguars play a fundamental role in stabilizing the ecosystems and regulating prey populations.
The Pantanal, fed by tributaries of the Paraguay River, is located mainly in western Brazil’s states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul. The first major step of conservation in the Pantanal occurred in 2000 when the UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site. The main justification for the preservation was to ensure the world’s largest freshwater wetland would remain untouched.
The amount of water in the Pantanal can fluctuate depending on the year’s floods and droughts; the ever-changing size of the wetlands is estimated to be between 140,000 and 195,000 sq km. During the annual rainy season—November through April—around 80% of the Pantanal floods, therefor it practically protects itself from human development and habitat destruction. The fresh waters support an astounding and biologically diverse ecosystem of aquatic life; the overabundance of vernal forestry provides a habitat for an enormous range of terrestrial life. Jaguars by nature are aquatic cats which is why the Pantanal is one of the only ecosystems that can support such a large number of big cats—the Pantanal is simply a heaven for jaguars.
Formed in 2013, The Jaguar Identification Project is a non-profit organization that utilizes citizen-science, a fun way to collaborate volunteer information to build a cohesive database on individual jaguars which reside within the northern Pantanal region of Porto Jofre, Mato Grosso. The relaxed nature of the jaguars has provided a rare chance to follow various lineages and document the lives of these elusive cats.
Like fingerprints, jaguars have individual markings that showcase distinct fur patterns unique to each cat. The idiosyncratic fur enables researchers to track and observe each animal throughout their lifetime. This methodology for cataloging individual jaguars in this region includes facial recognition, which has currently built and impressive database of already 132 Jaguars.
The Jaguar ID Project is an interactive way that scientists and citizens alike can help protect these beautiful creatures. The process of registering individual cats has provided a unique amount of data on each animal’s behavior, lineages, relationships, home ranges, and movement. As the Internet continues to bring our world closer together, the Jaguar ID Project will use social media to promote awareness about the Pantanal conservation efforts and lives of identified Jaguars.
During the peak season, the Jaguar Identification Project runs a camera trap project and host volunteers. Nearly 100% of our camera trap project is funded by donations from our growing list of benefactors and patrons. (For more information about how to donate, visit www.jaguaridproject.com)
The Camera Trap Project was created in 2013 and now possesses twenty different camera traps located between the Jaguar Ecological Reserve and the Pantanal Jaguar Camp of the Northern Pantanal. Each day we are not only monitoring jaguars but also evaluating the availability of prey species. Through our efforts to capture the candid behavior of the jaguars we share interesting photos with the donors in hope to raise interest. Volunteers, aspiring researchers and young biologists are given an incredible opportunity to not only work with the project, but also learn effective tourism attraction management by working closely with different educational and sustainable practices.
Counting different jaguars and their behaviors, identifying where they live and co-exist, and determine how conservation efforts will help to protect these animals if our objective. Our efforts are aimed to help protect jaguars, other wildlife and ultimately the environment in the only place in the world where a wild jaguar is more valuable than a dead one. Visit our social media pages to get involved; @jaguaridproject.
Abbie Martin is a young American zoologist who after graduation from Ohio Wesleyan University, has been studying and guiding in the Brazilian Pantanal since 2013. In 2015 she created the Jaguar Identification Project, in inspiration to add value to South Americas largest and most sacred big cat. The Jaguar ID project uses citizen science and remote camera traps to monitor the ecology and behavior of a large population of jaguars found in the ‘’ State Park Meeting of Water’’ and surrounding ‘’Porto Jofre’’ region of the Northern Pantanal.
Over the past 6 years she has documented 167 different jaguars and has over 2,000 hours of wild jaguar observations. Her project offers opportunities for young biologist and nature lovers to come volunteer and experience the beauty and wonder of the world’s largest and wildest wetland. Through her experiences and time spent in the Pantanal she has been invited to guide and be featured on many different documentaries focusing on the Pantanal and or jaguars including being published in the book “Jaguars of the Northern Pantanal” by Paul Brooks in 2020.