Is translocation of problematic jaguars (Panthera onca) an effective strategy to resolve human-predator conflicts? (systematic review)
In the case of the jaguar (Panthera onca), predation on domestic animals is closely associated with the decrease of available natural prey due to hunting and habitat loss. In spite of the low impact of jaguar predation on livestock populations, the conflict-related hunting of this predator is one of the major threats to its conservation. Several measures have been developed to curb the hunting of jaguars. Among them, the translocation of problem animals has the support of most conservationists, basically because it aims to solve the predation issue without eradicating individuals. This paper, therefore, seeks to assess the outcomes of jaguar relocation programs over the animal‟s entire range so as to determine whether this management intervention can be effective in improving the conservation status of jaguar populations by tackling conflict-related hunting activities.
This review investigates whether the translocation of problematic animals is an effective strategy for the jaguar conservation, by improving the status of their populations and/or reduces human-predator conflict The review also addresses the significance of a jaguar‟s age and gender to the effectiveness of this type of program; the relation between the types of human activity involved in the conflict and the success of translocation programs as a means to resolve human-predator conflicts; the most frequently used techniques to capture and move problem jaguars; and the criteria to select areas to relocate problem animals.
Searches were performed by an only reviewer between July and December 2008 in the following databases and search engine: IUCN / SSC Cat Specialist Group – Digital Cat Library, Science Direct, Scirus and Scientific Electronic Library Online (SciELO) and Google Scholar. A defined combination of search terms in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French were used. The bibliographic databases of experts, libraries and jaguar specialized sources were examined. Included studies were relevant for the proposed subject (the jaguar) and the intervention (the translocation of problem jaguars), and presented qualitative and quantitative evidence regarding the effectiveness of problem jaguar relocation programs. Studies were selected in three steps: titles and keywords, abstract and entire manuscript. At each step, a second evaluator reviewed all the work to check the selection criteria. The quality of the selected studies was analyzed using defined criteria. The entire manuscript of the selected works was analyzed by a reviewer and the results obtained were summarized and organized in a spreadsheet and in summary tables: narrative synthesis, quality classification and/or evaluation, heterogeneity sources and secondary results, among others. The quantitative result included the survival of relocated jaguars, number of jaguars hunted and domestic animals preyed upon by jaguars. Additional information was also extracted: persons or institutions responsible for the identification, relocation and monitoring of animals, capture and release location, trapping methods, characteristics of animals translocated and type and duration of follow- up. The expert opinion on the effectiveness of the intervention was recorded for analysis. The quantitative data were analyzed using descriptive statistics.
Out of 3,200 works retrieved from searches, only 10 were selected to be included in the review. From these, the most (7) were classified as opinions of respected experts based on field qualitative evidence. Although the studies showed important results (quantitative and qualitative) on the causes and consequences of jaguar predation on domestics animals and the relocation experience of problem animals, none had sufficient or adequate results to evaluate the effectiveness of the translocation of jaguars for its conservation.
The three translocation programs that were reviewed yielded a low survival of relocated jaguars (28% survival). This, however, cannot be taken as conclusive evidence against the effectiveness of a conservation strategy because the programs evaluated have both design and implementation flaws with respect to the review question. Among the major flaws must be mentioned the fact that only 27,8% of the animals were classified as livestock predators, most of captured animals died (28,6%) or were taken to zoos (22,2%), only six individuals were followed within the area of release and the monitoring time was insufficient to determine the effectiveness of the translocation. The characteristics the area of release and the relocated individuals seem to have played a part in the effectiveness of the jaguar relocation programs that were studied. Other factors that may affect the effectiveness of this conservation strategy are the characteristics of program capture, transfer and monitoring of animals, as well as social and economic situation of human populations related to the program. A secondary analysis of the founded expert‟s opinions shows that for most of them (60%) the effectiveness of the relocating problem animals as the jaguar conservation strategy was low. However, experts also consider that a continuous, carefully controlled implementation of this strategy could eventually achieve the conservation of this predator.
There is very little evidence available to assess the effectiveness of problem animal translocation programs that seek to protect the jaguar, most of which owe their inadequacy to planning and design flaws. As long as the lack of reliable results on the implications of these types of measure persists, it will be impossible to assess the effectiveness of such programs, as well as improve or replace them with better ones. The results may prompt researchers to broaden the scope of their studies and initiate a more rigorous assessment of management and conservation programs for threatened species such as the jaguar.
The jaguar (Panthera onca) is the largest terrestrial predator in the Neotropics and is the only representative of the genus Panthera in America (Seymour 1989). It is strongly associated with areas that have considerable vegetation cover, water availability and prey abundance, although it is able to survive in a number of different environmental conditions (Rabinowitz & Nottingham 1986, Mondolfi & Hoogesteijn 1986, Seymour 1989, Crawshaw & Quigley 1991, Rabinowitz 1992, Jackson 1992, Novell & Jackson).
Like most other felines, the conservation status of jaguar populations is defined principally by habitat conditions and by its interaction level with humans (hunting activities, trade, competition for prey; Nowell & Jackson 1996, Mondolfi & Hoogesteijn 1992, Jackson 1992, Swank & Teer 1992). Up to the 1970s, the species ́ main threat consisted in poaching activities for its skin. It was for this reason that the jaguar was included in 1973 in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) (Seymour 1989, Swank & Teer 1989). Today, the jaguar is principally threatened by habitat loss and destruction, indiscriminate hunting of its natural prey and the conflicts that exist between it and humans which are caused by predation of domestic animals (Nowell & Jackson 1996, Swank & Teer 1992, Hoogesteijn et al. 1992). Consequently the species is catalogued as Nearly Threatened (NT) by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The sources of threat that affect the species are not independent. Habitat loss and destruction directly affect the jaguar by reducing its shelter availability, and has a negative effect on the populations of its prey which alongside hunting activities notably reduces the jaguar’s food availability (Rabinowitz 1992, Hoogesteijn et al. 1992, Saénz & Carillo 2002, Hoogesteijn et al. 2002). It is believed that this situation encourages the substitution of the jaguar’s natural prey by domestic animals, which leads to financial losses and general animosity towards this predator. This conflict between anthropogenic activities and the jaguar has promoted its active persecution and hunting. Therefore in the present day, hunting activities are one of the main causes of mortality (Saénz & Carillo 2002, Hoogesteijn et al. 2002).
In order to reduce human-predator conflicts, different strategies have been proposed to manage both predator and domestic animal populations (Swank & Teer 1992, Taber et al. 2002). However, the management of domestic animals aimed at reducing predation events have so far not been accepted by farmers as they are costly in terms of effort, time and money. These management strategies stabilize the coexistence between predators and domestic animal coexistence but do not guarantee that no animal will be predated upon. Some of the methods that have been most widely used to control indiscriminate jaguar hunting activities, have been the selective hunting of problematic animals, and the translocation of animals to areas of reduced human activity. Of these two alternatives, the capture and translocation of problematic animals might be an effective option for jaguar conservation. This method involves the transfer and liberation of problematic jaguars in an area within the jaguar ́s original distribution where there is low human activity and consequently a lower hunting pressure. The translocation of problematic animals tends to take place in both public and private protected areas. In this way, habitat and prey availability is guaranteed to encourage the maintenance and conservation of jaguar populations.
The translocation of problematic animals is a management strategy that has been widely used for jaguars and other big carnivores. However, there are serious limitations such as the difficulty of identifying individuals that predate on domestic animals, costs of capture and transfer of animals, choice of translocation areas, absence of monitoring and continuity of translocation programs, lack of institutional support, (Hoogesteijn et al. 1992, Swank & Teer 1992). On the other hand, hunting of jaguars may still be taking place in areas where a translocation programmes are running due to lack of the programme ́s credibility (leading people to eliminate any animal that may be present in the area without reporting the event)), and to local cultural values that promote the hunting practice of this predator (Hoogesteijn et al. 2002).
Translocation of problematic animals is a potentially effective technique for the conservation of the jaguar. However, the results of different jaguar translocation programmes within the species ́ distribution range, require evaluation to determine whether they have been effective in improving the conservation status of jaguar populations and in limiting hunting events due to predator-human conflicts. The objective of this review is to compile, organise and evaluate the results of different jaguar translocation programmes using an evidence-based conservation approach (Sutherland et al. 2004).
By using systematic review methodology we hope to determine whether the different strategies used in protected area management provide evidence to find out which specific strategy is effective in conserving jaguars and the habitat of the latter. It will therefore be of vital importance to review not only the available scientific literature, but also grey literature as well as interviewing specialists to be able to get all available data.