Guatemala’s Jaguars: Capturing Phantoms in Photos

Guatemala’s Jaguars: Capturing Phantoms in Photos Photo
Rony Garcia © WCS

New Large-scale Jaguar Camera-trap Study Underway in Guatemala

Wildlife Conservation Society Issues New Manual for Catching Conservation in Action


New York (May 28, 2013) – The Wildlife Conservation Society today released this photograph of a male jaguar taken by a remote camera trap in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve. Activated by motion or heat differentials, camera traps “capture” pictures of secretive and elusive animals in the wild. Because each jaguar’s pattern of spots is unique, the photographs can be used to identify individuals and estimate abundance.

Integrating experience from more than 80 jaguar surveys, WCS has issued an updated version of its 2004 manual of methods to estimate jaguar population density using camera traps. The new manual – available in Spanish and English at: http://www.wcsguatemala.org/en-us/wildlife/jaguar.aspx.– shares lessons learned and recommendations for design and analysis that can improve density estimates.

Because jaguars roam widely seeking prey, the manual notes that density estimates require huge sample areas. In keeping with that recommendation, WCS is leading a survey in Guatemala using 50 stations of paired camera traps to cover a 500-square kilometer area of community-managed forest to learn more about these elusive creatures, including how many exist in the region.

“By protecting jaguar populations in globally significant, strategically located strongholds, our program contributes to range wide conservation of this species,” said WCS Jaguar Coordinator Dr. John Polisar. “The jaguar in this photo is secure because its home is defended against illegal encroachments that would clear its forest habitat, and uncontrolled hunting that would reduce its prey. The intent of the new manual is to share the knowledge we have gained, and it provides guidance on design and analysis for a next generation of jaguar population studies that are essential to informing conservation actions.”

WCS’s jaguar monitoring advances in Guatemala are being made possible through the generous financial support of: the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation; the US Agency for International Development/Rainforest Alliance – Climate, Nature, and Communities in Guatemala Program; and the US Department of Interior – International Technical Assistance Program. The Andean Bear Conservation Alliance is enabling this large scale jaguar survey through sharing equipment.


For further information on this story, or to talk with the authors, please contact Scott Smith at 718-220-3698 or email ssmith@wcs.org.


The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes toward nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. Visit: www.wcs.org


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