In Colombia, a breeder declares a truce with the jaguar – fr

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In Colombia, a breeder declares a truce with the jaguar – fr


Hato Corozal (Colombie) (AFP)

In the plains of eastern Colombia, a centuries-old conflict between man and beast unfolds almost daily. Jaguars attack cattle. Farmers retaliate with shotguns.

But breeder Jorge Barragan has declared a one-sided truce with carnivorous cats.

He’s taken a liking to the biggest feline in the Americas and says he’s not afraid to sacrifice a few head of cattle to do his part to conserve the deadly hunters who have captured his imagination.

About ten years ago, Barragan decided to sacrifice part of his family farm, La Aurora, to the savannah that provides shelter and food for jaguars who he says “are worth more alive than dead.”

The family has long banned the hunting of wild animals – jaguar food – on the property.

Now 61, Barragan searches for cats rather than dreading sightings.

He spends much of his day browsing footage on hidden cameras scattered around the farm, which has also become a nature reserve, in the eastern part of Colombia’s Casanare department.

In the photos, he meets old feline friends and discovers new ones.

But it’s not always a happy coexistence.

– Do the opposite –

Cats, which can weigh 100 kilograms (220 pounds) and are about two meters (six feet) in length, frequently pass through Barragan’s property.

And sometimes the cattle are victimized – up to 100 a year, with a loss of about $ 300 per head.

Barragan says he is making up for the losses, at least in part, with visits from scientists and tourists in the hopes of spotting one of the majestic spotted cats.

In 2018, the farm drew some 160 visitors per month, at $ 30 per person per night, but that source of income all but dried up during the coronavirus pandemic.

The jaguar is listed as “near threatened” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Population numbers are shrinking, with agricultural, residential and commercial development among the main threats.

“The jaguar-cattle conflict is a serious threat to the survival of the jaguar,” says IUCN. “There are few areas in the Jaguar range that can be considered safe” for cats.

For Barragan, “a culture has been created of killing the feline to stop the problem” of livestock losses.

“But we are doing the opposite,” he proudly told AFP.

The breeder said he inherited a deep respect for nature from his father.

But his love affair with the jaguar began when he saw a photo of one of the majestic predators in 2009, taken with a hidden camera that a student had left on the farm.

“We knew we had (jaguars) in the savannah, but I was very moved when I saw this first photo. “

– The range has been halved –

Twelve years later, Barragan has given names to many of the animals that visit the farm, each sporting their own unique coat design.

“He managed to identify 54 individual jaguars,” said Samantha Rincon, of the Panthera foundation dedicated to cat conservation.

According to Panthera, around 55 other Colombian farms are now following in La Aurora’s footsteps, seeking to better coexist with the jaguars they once viewed as the enemy.

Measures include introducing more energetic oxen to defend the rest of the herd in the event of an attack, stopping deforestation, and stopping the hunting of jaguar prey such as capybaras.

“By removing the habitat of the jaguar, by eliminating its prey, it will obviously go in search of domestic animals” for food, Rincon told AFP.

Outside the confines of La Aurora, the picture is very different, with extensive rice and oil palm plantations competing with jaguars for territory.

Panthera says there are around 15,000 cats left in Colombia and around 170,000 throughout the Americas.

The species once extended from the southern United States to northern Argentina, but its range has since been halved and is extinct in several countries.

Climate change is also taking its toll.

In 2016, a severe drought killed large numbers of capybara, giant rodents that make up a large part of the jaguar’s diet.

Barragan said he would like to see more farmers commit to protecting felines.

“Finding a cat on a breeding farm always produces some fear… but our experience shows that we can coexist with the jaguar,” he said.

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