The death of the jaguar Macho B has left an enormous void in Arizona’s wild lands, but another jaguar may be moving in to fill that void.
Large cats cover large areas, and when one departs, another often takes up residence.
There also may be wild jaguars elsewhere in Arizona we’ve not yet seen. So we must not have a repeat of the recent tragedy. We must be ready for Macho C or Hembra A. We must do better.
Macho B was the name scientists used to identify the jaguar first photographed roaming southern Arizona’s sky islands in 1996. He was so named because he was the second male jaguar photographed and identified by researchers.
And Macho B became a symbol and proof of Arizona’s unique biodiversity. He represented hope for conservation of jaguars in the U.S. and put focus on the need to preserve wildlife core habitats and connecting corridors in the region.
Over the years, dozens of remote-camera photographs of Macho B helped researchers learn about his territory, ecological interactions, survival skills and communication in the wild.
Trapped by the Arizona Game & Fish Department in February, he was fitted with a radio collar and released. Twelve days later, data from the collar showed he was not moving as he should. Macho B was recaptured, found to be in medical distress, and euthanized.
The loss of this jaguar is a tragedy – one that must not be repeated.
The Sky Island Alliance calls on state and federal agencies, other environmental conservation groups, and our fellow scientists and citizens to work together to preserve jaguars and to avoid a repeat of the Macho B tragedy.
Specifically, we call for:
• Withdrawal of the non-binding Jaguar Conservation Assessment document drafted by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Recently, the U.S. District Court ruled that jaguars deserve the full protection of the Endangered Species Act. A real Recovery Plan makes the assessment document irrelevant and insufficient.
• Prompt creation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of a true and effective recovery plan for jaguars and a jaguar recovery team that includes full and meaningful participation of conservation organizations and scientists.
• Dissolution of the Arizona-New Mexico Jaguar Conservation Team, which for the past decade has failed to include all stakeholders (non-agency scientists, conservation groups, landowners), has failed to make progress on many of its goals, and has failed to improve conservation of jaguars.
• Accelerated preservation of jaguar habitat. Macho B has shown us what good habitat looks like, and scientists have modeled where good habitat likely exists; the time is now to preserve that habitat.
On private lands, working with individual landowners is essential. On public lands, appropriate management practices and special designations such as wilderness must be put in place.
The best recovery process will not matter if habitat loss and fragmentation continues. No habitat means no jaguars.
• Preserve habitat in Mexico and landscape connectivity across the international border. Macho B likely came from a known breeding population of jaguars in northern Sonora; the connections to the population in the south are critical for long-term survival of the species in the United States.
• Increase what we know about jaguars, habitat and conservation; increase access to information; and do this in the safest, smartest ways possible.
We need increased funding, support, and use of noninvasive research techniques (such as remote cameras) across the region. We need to be looking more, in more places, with more comprehensive, cohesive and collaborative research.
The life of Macho B symbolized the rich biodiversity and glorious beauty of our region.
Macho B gave us hope: Magnificent wild creatures still roam. We can coexist. The world remains whole and sacred.
His death was tragic and has touched many. We must not lose that hope; we must not let that death be in vain. We must do better, and we must do it now.
Sergio Avila has worked on wildlife research and conservation in northwest Mexico and the U.S. Southwest for more than 12 years; he is coordinator of the Northern Mexico Conservation Program at Sky Island Alliance.