Record number of jaguars uncovered in Bolivia

October 19, 2011
Using technology first adapted to identify tigers by stripe patterns, researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society have identified 19 individual jaguars -- each with a unique spot pattern -- from digital camera trap photos taken in Bolivia's Madidi National Park. Credit: WCS Bolivia Program.

In a new camera trap survey in the world's most biologically diverse landscape, researchers for the Wildlife Conservation Society have identified more individual jaguars than ever before.

Using technology first adapted to identify tigers by , WCS have identified 19 individual jaguars by spot patterns in the rainforests of Bolivia, a record number for a single camera trap survey in the country. The animals were identified from a total of 975 photographs, a record number of images due to the use of digital cameras as opposed to camera traps that use film.

The images come from the Alto Madidi and Alto Heath, a region at the headwaters of the Madidi and Heath Rivers inside Bolivia's outstanding Madidi National Park. The survey also included Ixiamas Municipal Reserve, created following a previous WCS survey in 2004 along the Madidi River, which revealed a high abundance of jaguars and other species such as white-lipped peccaries, , and giant otters.

"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."

During a recent digital camera trap survey in Bolivia, researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society identified 19 individual jaguars, a record for camera trap surveys in that country. Credit: WCS Bolivia Program.

The study is noteworthy in its use of traps replacing the traditional film units used in the past. The cameras are strategically placed along pathways in the forest and especially the beaches of rivers and streams for weeks at a time, snapping pictures of animals that cross an infrared beam. Now, researchers returning to the traps can download the images in seconds, rather than waiting days for film to develop. Before embarking on second field trip to the even more remote Heath River, Bolivian field biologist Guido Ayala noted that "series of digital images also capture more data than traditional film."

"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."

Madidi National Park is one of the top tourist attractions in Bolivia and is the centerpiece of a continuous chain of six national protected areas in northwestern Bolivia and southeastern Peru, one of the largest such complexes in the world.

WCS works to develop local capacity to conserve the landscape from a variety of threats, including the negative environmental impacts from poorly planned development such as road construction, hydroelectric projects, logging, and agricultural expansion. WCS also works to improve local livelihoods through community enterprises.

WCS has worked to protect jaguars for decades and launched the WCS Jaguar Conservation Program in 1999 to assess the needs of jaguars in the wild and to minimize potential conflicts with humans.

Explore further: Central America Agrees to Jaguar Corridor

Related Stories

Central America Agrees to Jaguar Corridor

May 24, 2006

A group of environment ministers representing the seven nations of Central America and Mexico have agreed to establish a network of protected areas and wildlife corridors to safeguard jaguar populations, according to the ...

Jaguars seen in Southwestern U.S.

October 10, 2006

Male jaguars are reportedly crossing into the Southwestern United States from Mexico, often using the same routes as drug smugglers.

Big cats, wild pigs and short-eared dogs -- oh, my!

January 27, 2009

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) released photos today from the first large-scale census of jaguars in the Amazon region of Ecuador—one of the most biologically rich regions on the planet.

Big cats love Calvin Klein cologne

June 9, 2010

( -- Workers in Wildlife Conservation Societies around the world are using a new technique to lure big cats to their heat-and-motion-sensitive cameras and keep them there long enough to enable them to be identified. ...

Snow leopard population discovered in Afghanistan

July 13, 2011

The Wildlife Conservation Society has discovered a surprisingly healthy population of rare snow leopards living in the mountainous reaches of northeastern Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor, according to a new study.

Recommended for you

Scientists overcome key CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing hurdle

December 1, 2015

Researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT have engineered changes to the revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing system that significantly cut down on "off-target" ...

Study finds 'rudimentary' empathy in macaques

December 1, 2015

(—A pair of researchers with Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Université Lyon, in France has conducted a study that has shown that macaques have at least some degree of empathy towards their fellow ...

Which came first—the sponge or the comb jelly?

December 1, 2015

Bristol study reaffirms classical view of early animal evolution. Whether sponges or comb jellies (also known as sea gooseberries) represent the oldest extant animal phylum is of crucial importance to our understanding of ...

Trap-jaw ants exhibit previously unseen jumping behavior

December 1, 2015

A species of trap-jaw ant has been found to exhibit a previously unseen jumping behavior, using its legs rather than its powerful jaws. The discovery makes this species, Odontomachus rixosus, the only species of ant that ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.