Jaguars in Ecuador are in greater number than in almost any other place on earth. The jungle is their home, but as stated in a recent article in the Guardian UK human intrusion is endangering the largest cat in the Americas, which could have serious implications for the balance of the rainforest ecosystem. Keep reading to understand what is at risk, and to learn more about these magnificent creatures.
The clash between conservation and profit in the jungle is longstanding. The riches of Ecuador’s jungle go beyond the incredible flora and fauna above the ground, there are large oil deposits that propel the country’s economy below the soil. In Yasuni National Park, considered the most biodiverse place on the planet, there are an estimated 1.7 billion barrels of crude oil. Oil operations have brought roads, and the new access gave way to logging and agriculture. More than a million acres of deforestation resulted, and the habitat of the jaguar has shrunk dramatically causing the elusive cat to retreat to less traversed areas of the Oriente.
Today there are around 2000 jaguars in Ecuador, most of which live in the eastern jungle region, as the west coastal population dwindled after shrimp farms depleted the forest and are considered critically endangered.
The World Wildlife Fund and Ecuadorian conservationists have set up camera traps that are helping with research that maintains a census of Jaguars in Ecuador. In Yasuni National Park there have been regular sightings of 21 different jaguars with several migrating cats as well, which gives north-east Ecuador the highest jaguar density in the world!
This information is used to urge the powers that be to help conserve important areas of the rainforest where jaguars live, but with the advent of new oil fields and mining operations on the horizon, the struggle to preserve the current population of the cats is at a crucial stage.
As a dominant predator, the jaguar has always been culturally respected by local indigenous in the rainforest. The big cat is revered for its strength, power, and intelligence, and is even considered a protector of forest knowledge & secrets by some. Statues and figures of Jaguar have been uncovered by archaeologists since Pre-Colombian times, providing insight into the jaguar´s position as a divine figure in those times.
Ecologically too the jaguar plays a very important role in maintaining the intricate balance of the rainforest ecosystem. Take the jaguar out of the equation and the food chain below will be adversely affected, from large & small mammals to plants and insects. In essence, the jaguar is a species that helps to preserve many other species below it.
So jaguar habitat conservation is more important now than ever.
Naturally, it is not easy to spot jaguars in the wild in Ecuador, or indeed anywhere else in the world. Imagine just 2000 jaguars roaming such a huge territory of dense forest, and renowned for stealth and camouflage; it is literally like searching for a needle in a haystack. A few lucky tourists may very occasionally catch a quick glimpse of a jaguar disappearing into the forest, but this is in truth an unusual occurrence.
To increase your chances the Happy Gringo Jaguar Tracks tour takes visitors deep into the rainforest, to the land of the Huaorani tribe. This area of forest is home to jaguars, and even if you don’t see one in person (which is rare), it is common to see signs of their passing such as paw prints and scat.
For more information about visiting the jungle of Ecuador and discovering the incredible plants, animals, and people who live there, contact a member of our team.