U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva is to be commended for requesting a federal probe into the death of Macho B – the last jaguar known to have lived within the United States.
And we applaud the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for undertaking that probe last week.
By most wildlife experts’ accounts, a highly endangered animal such as Macho B should not be captured and fitted with a radio collar; rather, it should be left to live freely and naturally in the wild.
While the movements and behavior of such a rare and majestic beast certainly provoke curiosity, we believe the Arizona Game & Fish Department officials who captured this cat should have known better.
A Game & Fish snare intended to snag bears and mountain lions instead trapped Macho B on Feb. 18.
State officials fitted him with a radio collar before freeing him, then recaptured him 12 days later after his movements slowed, indicating the aging cat may have been sick.
A Phoenix Zoo veterinarian believed Macho B’s kidneys were failing and euthanized the jaguar.
Stress can cause kidney failure in large cats, and some experts say Macho B’s capture and collaring undoubtedly stressed the majestic animal.
“It was a high-risk activity, and they knew that,” said Randy Serraglio, a conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity.
Amid such controversy, the state agency’s promise to investigate its own actions is insufficient and lacks credibility.
So the probe now being conducted by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is logical and necessary.
Fish & Wildlife has jurisdiction over listed species, in any case, and Macho B was as highly endangered as an American animal can get without being extinct. He was, by all accounts, the only one of his kind.
Grijalva underscored other concerns with this case, citing allegations that “a thorough autopsy of the animal’s remains was not performed because of a desire to preserve the animal’s hide for public display.”
“If this is true,” Grijalva noted, “it goes against the public’s right to know what occurred in this case.
“If the animal’s remains have not been destroyed, I requested that Fish & Wildlife Service perform a thorough autopsy, so that an objective determination can be made about the true cause of death and whether euthanization was necessary.”
We second that motion. This gorgeous creature’s unnatural death casts serious doubts on the professionalism of a state agency and its handling of endangered species.
We deeply lament the death of this impressive jaguar, and we hope the federal probe ultimately helps to prevent further tragedies like this one.