AboutZoos, Since 2008


Jaguars and well-​managed log­ging con­ces­sions can coexist!

pub­lished 31 March 2018 | mod­i­fied 31 March 2018

Con­ser­va­tion­ists from San Diego Zoo Global and Bronx Zoo-​based WCS exam­ined impacts of log­ging con­ces­sions in Guatemala and Peru on jaguars and other wildlife. Both case stud­ies indi­cate that forests with cer­ti­fied log­ging oper­a­tions can main­tain jaguars and help min­i­mize the effects of devel­op­ment on pro­tected areas.

jaguar on logging road in peruA jaguar (Pan­thera onca) using a log­ging road in Peru.
Image credit: San Diego Zoo Global

Log­ging activ­i­ties in bio­di­verse forests can have a huge neg­a­tive impact on wildlife, par­tic­u­larly large species such as big cats, but a new study proves that the West­ern Hemisphere’s largest cat species — the jaguar (Pan­thera onca) — can do well in log­ging con­ces­sions that are prop­erly man­aged, accord­ing to con­ser­va­tion­ists from the San Diego Zoo Global and the Bronx Zoo-​based Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Soci­ety (WCS).

The study titled “Do respon­si­bly man­aged log­ging con­ces­sions ade­quately pro­tect jaguars and other large and medium-​sized mam­mals? Two case stud­ies from Guatemala and Peru” is pub­lished online in the April edi­tion of the jour­nal Bio­log­i­cal Conservation.

Our find­ings indi­cate that cer­ti­fied log­ging oper­a­tions can play an impor­tant role in main­tain­ing vital habi­tat for jaguars and other large wildlife species.

Math­ias Tobler, lead author, Insti­tute for Con­ser­va­tion Research, San Diego Zoo Global

Much of the world’s trop­i­cal forests have dis­ap­peared as a result of defor­esta­tion, par­tic­u­larly in bio­di­verse regions such as Cen­tral and South Amer­ica that are home to jaguars, tapirs, pec­ca­ries, and many other charis­matic species. Reduced impact log­ging oper­a­tions, which strive to pre­vent uncon­trolled hunt­ing and other neg­a­tive envi­ron­men­tal impacts, pro­vide con­ser­va­tion­ists with a sus­tain­able alter­na­tive in multiple-​use and/​or buffer areas near core zones or fully pro­tected areas.

Cam­era trap footage from log­ging con­ces­sions in Peru and Guatemala:

To that end, the study research team ini­ti­ated large-​scale cam­era trap sur­veys to gauge the effec­tive­ness of For­est Stew­ard­ship Coun­cil (FSC)-certified log­ging con­ces­sions in both Guatemala and Peru in main­tain­ing ter­res­trial mam­mal com­mu­ni­ties, with a focus on jaguars. The cam­era traps in Guatemala’s Maya Bios­phere Reserve cap­tured a total of 23 indi­vid­ual jaguars, whereas the traps in two con­ces­sions in Peru’s Madre de Dios region recorded 43 of these big cats. The appear­ance of the same jaguar in two or more images can be deter­mined from spot pat­terns that are unique to each indi­vid­ual; such “recap­tures” are impor­tant for accu­rately deter­min­ing jaguar densities.

The spa­tial capture-​recapture mod­els used to cal­cu­late jaguar den­si­ties in both cer­ti­fied log­ging con­ces­sion loca­tions esti­mated that the Guatemala site con­tained an aver­age of 1.5 jaguars per 100 km2, whereas the Peru site con­tained an aver­age of 4.5 jaguars. Fur­ther, both sites sup­ported more than 20 large and medium mam­mal species (with 22 in Guatemala and 27 in Peru).

Addi­tion­ally, the sci­en­tists found that strictly con­trolled log­ging roads with lim­ited access in well-​managed con­ces­sions were used by sev­eral species, includ­ing car­ni­vores, as move­ment cor­ri­dors, a find­ing con­trary to the con­ven­tional think­ing of the roads being neg­a­tive dis­tur­bances to wildlife. Authors cau­tion that log­ging roads must still be closed to the pub­lic so that traf­fic lev­els can be kept low to ensure that impacts to wildlife are minimized.

Con­trol­ling access into an area and hunt­ing of prey are para­mount con­sid­er­a­tions for the objec­tives of pre­serv­ing bio­di­ver­sity and eco­log­i­cal func­tion, both of which are sell­ing points for cer­ti­fied lum­ber prod­ucts,” said Dr. John Polisar, coor­di­na­tor for WCS’s Jaguar Pro­gram and a co-​author of the study. “The pres­ence of jaguars in a log­ging con­ces­sion is tes­ti­mony that envi­ron­men­tal guide­lines are being followed.”

Polisar was the lead author in a pre­vi­ously pub­lished paper (online on 7 Decem­ber 2016 in the jour­nal Ambio) titled “Using cer­ti­fied tim­ber extrac­tion to ben­e­fit jaguar and ecosys­tem con­ser­va­tion.” The study focused exclu­sively on jaguars (as opposed to jaguars and other large and medium sized species in the afore­men­tioned paper) and explored the fac­tors that con­tributed to the per­sis­tence of these big cats in cer­ti­fied forests in Bolivia, French Guiana, Nicaragua and Guatemala.

Stud­ies assess­ing the envi­ron­men­tal impacts of log­ging oper­a­tions are cru­cial for sav­ing wildlife, say study authors and other con­ser­va­tion­ists, who add that cer­ti­fied, low-​impact tim­ber man­age­ment by com­mu­nity groups and indus­trial oper­a­tors con­sti­tutes one of the most effec­tive jaguar con­ser­va­tion strate­gies avail­able to jaguar-​range coun­tries. Prop­erly man­aged con­ces­sions help forests per­sist in the face of more inten­sive land uses, gen­er­ate income for local stake­hold­ers who become lead defend­ers of the forests, and main­tain habi­tat for jaguars and their prey as they range beyond fully pro­tected areas.

(Source: WCS news release, 22.03.2018)

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