Into the Unknown

by Alan Rabinowitz, PhD

It’s a romantic thought–to me, at least: jaguars roaming freely in the southwestern United States as they did not that many decades ago. The sighting of a few male jaguars on the U.S. side of the border in recent years keeps the hope alive. But the odds against it are formidable.

On this journey, we’re starting in the rugged Santa Rita Mountains where jaguars have been sighted, and will ride with a couple of seasoned cowboys who know better than anyone how the borderlands are changing. We’ll visit the border wall and consider how its proposed expansion could further impede the movement of jaguars and other wildlife between the U.S. and Mexico. Indeed, the creep of human presence in this region is chasing jaguars to the south, and it’s those populations that we are most interested in learning about on this trek from Sonora to the north coast of Jalisco.

In the dry Sonora landscape, life is hard for jaguars, but in the vast Northern Jaguar Reserve, beautifully protected by its remote location, they are thriving. There, and, in the Monte Mojino Reserve in Alamos Natural Protected Area, NGOs are advancing conservation in ways that may provide models for other parts of Mexico.

Sinaloa is a mystery we need to unlock. It’s a critical corridor connecting the Sonora and Jalisco JCUs, but we don’t know nearly as much as we need or want to about the status of jaguars there. We hear that jaguars are turning up where they haven’t before, and we want to understand why. The presence of illegal activity in the area makes our research more difficult, but we hope to get off on the right foot by meeting with local landowners and government officials to find common ground upon which we can build.

I’m eager to see what we can find out about this little known but hugely important piece of jaguar range.   

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