Researchers for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have identified more individual jaguars than ever before using technology first adapted to identify tigers by stripe patterns.
In Madidi National Park – a top tourist attraction in Bolivia and centerpiece of an international chain of 6 protected areas in northwestern Bolivia and southeastern Peru – modern digital camera technology was used to identify 19 individual jaguars by their unique spot patterns. They were captured on a record number of almost 1,000 photographs.
“We’re excited about the prospect of using these images to find out more about this elusive cat and its ecological needs,” said WCS Conservationist Dr. Robert Wallace. “The data gleaned from these images provide insights into the lives of individual jaguars and will help us generate a density estimate for the area.”
Cameras were strategically placed along pathways in the forest – particularly river beaches – for weeks at a time, triggered to take pictures of animals as they cross an infra-red beam. These can be downloaded in seconds and viewed immediately, speeding up research.
“The preliminary results of this new expedition underscore the importance of the Madidi landscape to jaguars and other charismatic rainforest species,” said Dr. Julie Kunen, Director of WCS’s Latin America and Caribbean Program. “Understanding the densities and ranging habits of jaguars is an important step in formulating effective management plans for what is arguably the most biodiverse landscape on the planet.”