Other jaguars wear study collars

By Tim StellerArizona Daily Star

Tucson, Arizona – Published: 03.29.2009

Two jaguars are wandering a nearly impenetrable thorn scrub-and-cactus forest in Paraguay, wearing the same sort of collar that was put on the United States’ last known jaguar, Macho B.

The Global Star collars from Virginia-based North Star Science and Technology transmit a radio signal to a satellite system, which researcher Anthony Giordano of Texas Tech University uses to track the jaguars from anywhere. The lithium D-cell batteries can last up to two years.

Scientists frequently use radio collars for studying wild animals. They’re especially useful for learning an animal’s migration and feeding patterns, researchers said.

While the capture and sedation of the target animal can be risky, usually the wearing of the collar isn’t, they said.

Blake Henke, managing partner of North Star, said he donated the $2,500 collar put on Macho B to Emil McCain of the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project in 2008.

Arizona Game and Fish wildlife technicians put the approximately 2-pound collar on Macho B after he was captured in a leg snare on Feb. 18, then sedated.

The collar, made of several layers of industrial belting material, has two small antennas on top and an aluminum enclosure for the battery and transmitter on the bottom, Henke said.

The company’s collars are intended to weigh less than 5 percent of an animal’s body weight, Henke said. In the case of Macho B, the collar amounted to about 1.7 percent of his 118-pound weight.

“We were confident and the biologists were confident the collar was not going to harm the animal’s ability to survive,” Henke said. “We wouldn’t have a business if the collar killed the animals they went on.”

In fact, Arizona Game and Fish has bought 70 or 80 of the collars for use on mountain lions, bears and other animals, Henke said. E-mails among Game and Fish staff members show a strong preference for the collars provided by North Star over another company’s collars.The jaguars in Paraguay, a male and a female, had been kept in a 2 1/2-acre enclosure but were released last week, Giordano said. Through this research project, a sidebar to his dissertation, he hopes to find out what the jaguars eat, what is killing jaguars, and whether their mortality rate is sustainable.

But all efforts to collar a jaguar mean trapping it and sedating it, procedures that bring inherent risks to the animal. And even Giordano, in his main line of research, is pursuing so-called “non-invasive” methods to track jaguar — finding jaguar scat and testing it to determine which individual cat it came from.


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Judge to decide if jaguars need habitat protection in U.S.

Local group sues to force feds to designate habitat

Published: 03.24.2009

An attorney for the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity told a federal judge Monday that the government must develop recovery programs for jaguars because “they are in need of protection now more than ever.”

John Buse said the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has ignored the need to designate critical habitat for jaguars, causing them to become nearly extinct in the U.S.

The center filed the lawsuit in 2007, aiming to force the federal government to designate habitat and develop a recovery plan, said Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate for the center who attended the hearing.

Last year, Fish & Wildlife declined to designate critical habitat in the U.S. because the main jaguar population is in Mexico.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett Grosko argued at Monday’s hearing that the species’ main population is in Mexico and South America and the U.S. is not critical to its survival.

He said the government has taken into consideration the lack of breeding observations and the lack of jaguars living in the U.S. and determined that there are not enough to “bring about the recovery.”
Grosko said the jaguar population north of the Mexico border is “transients not residents.”

Buse said that wasn’t true.

“There is a population of jaguars in the U.S. and, though small, it is not a transient population. They reside in southern Arizona and parts of New Mexico,” Buse said.

He said the best example of that is the recently euthanized Macho B, a jaguar that was first photographed in southern Arizona in 1996.
Macho B was captured Feb. 18 and released wearing a radio collar. He was recaptured March 2 and euthanized at the Phoenix Zoo after he was found to have severe kidney failure.

“Macho was the most photographed jaguar in the United States for the past 13 years,” Buse said. “Now that is a resident not a transient.”
Robinson said people care deeply about the fate of jaguars and the government is “ignoring the need to preserve them.”

“Jaguars have roamed our country for thousands of years,” Robinson said. “This is the American jaguar’s last stand.”

U.S. District Court Judge John M. Roll said he would make a decision on the case soon.



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Wildlife smuggling nets big bucks for organized crime


Illegally traded animals can end up anywhere from a cooking pot in Asia to a pet shop in Europe

Humming birds bound and stuffed in cigarette packets, snakes and tortoises inside a hollowed out teddy bear, exotic birds’ eggs made into necklaces—these are just some of the myriad ways used to smuggle wildlife in a lucrative worldwide trade.

Run by organized crime, the illegal trade in wildlife and animal parts is estimated to be worth tens of billions of dollars per year, making it the biggest money-maker for organized crime after drugs, according to Interpol, the international police body.

Stingrays and piranhas from South America; star tortoises from India; pygmy slow lorises, a primate, from South Asia; rare albino carpet pythons from Australia; Hawaiian chameleons; endangered sea turtles; West African songbirds—the list of smuggled species is endless.

The animals are stolen from their natural habitat by poachers and spirited out, mostly to developed countries where collectors or those who simply want an unusual gift for their kid’s birthday can afford the exorbitant prices charged.

“Some of these rare parrots or deer falcons can fetch up to $100,000,” says Michael O’Sullivan, chairman and CEO of The Humane Society of Canada (HSC).

And although many creatures do not survive the trip because they are smuggled in cruel conditions, the trade still proves profitable to organized crime.

“The figure that is often quoted is that only one out of about every 10 animals that start out the journey actually survive it,” says O’Sullivan, a veteran of undercover work in Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere.

The illegal wildlife trade, coupled with the destruction of habitat and the hunting of wild animals for food, has put the world’s wildlife “under assault,” he says.

In addition, many of the animals traded are already endangered. “The more rare they are, the higher the price they command. The endangered species are actually more valuable.”

Wildlife smuggled out of Canada includes falcons, especially deer falcons, which are highly prized in Middle Eastern countries. Eagle parts, bear paws, and bear gall bladders—which sell for up to $10,000 each in Asia—are also in demand.

Once a successful pipeline has been established for smuggling wildlife, crime networks will use it to smuggle drugs, illegal weapons, people, and other contraband. Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States are among the top 10 smuggling hubs for wildlife.

HSC partners with Interpol to fight the illegal wildlife trade. In a five-country sweep in Africa last November, Interpol, HSC, and other groups seized one ton of illegal elephant ivory. Fifty seven people were arrested. The African elephant was declared endangered in 1978.

In cooperation with Interpol, HSC has set up a fund to help provide support for the families of park rangers who are killed by poachers.

“It’s a very dangerous job. At least 100 [rangers] are killed every year throughout the world. The poachers are armed with automatic weapons, high tech gear, the latest and fastest boats and aircraft, and four wheel drives,” O’Sullivan says.

Drug gangs in Mexico and Colombia are known to be partial to exotic pets themselves, the most common being venomous snakes, lions, tigers, and hippos. Rumour has it that some cartel leaders throw the bodies of their rivals to the big cats as food.

Drug gang leaders like to own rare animals as a status symbol and often build private zoos at their mansions. A raid on a drug mansion last year in Mexico City uncovered two black jaguars, two lions, two Bengal tigers, and a monkey.

China and the U.S. are the largest markets for illegally traded wildlife. The demand in China for exotic meats for consumption, and for animal parts to make medicine has virtually wiped out the country’s small wildlife. Now, in a multi-million dollar smuggling business, poachers are branching out into surrounding countries in order to supply this market.

Conservationists fear that Bokor National Park, one of Asia’s last surviving wildernesses, is becoming rapidly depleted of its wildlife. According to a Sky News report, 50 rangers armed with AK 47s patrol the park, but they are losing the battle with the poachers.

While poor villagers do the poaching, the operation is actually run by organized crime. The stolen animals include chameleon lizards, poisonous cobras, and the protected leopard cat. Tigers are taken from the forests of Burma, brush-tailed porcupines from Indonesia, and makak monkeys from Cambodia.

The majority of the bear gall bladders smuggled out of Canada end up in China and Korea. With the Asiatic bear in danger of extinction, the illegal trade in bear parts is creating growing pressure on the black bear populations in other countries.

Canada’s black bears are protected by the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES, to which 175 countries are signatories, sets controls on the international trade and movement of animal and plant species that are threatened due to excessive commercial exploitation.

However, while countries can be sanctioned and have trade prohibited under CITES, it doesn’t impose penalties; seizures, fines, and imprisonment are up to the laws of individual countries.

Wildlife organizations complain that, if caught, smugglers often face little more than an inadequate fine or a short jail term in most countries.

O’Sullivan says a “useful tool” in existence in many countries for fighting the illegal wildlife trade is conspiracy laws and organized crime laws that can be used to seize assets.

“The only way to attack these organized crime networks is to go after their money, throw them in jail, confiscate their homes and the aircraft they use, and smash these networks. Because they are in fact organized crime, I think it’s in everyone’s interest to shut these people down.”

In the meantime, he says, being domesticated “is a terrible life for a wild animal. We ought to leave them alone with their families in the wilderness where they belong. They don’t belong as pets.”



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Hong Kong: Jaguar specimen goes on display

March 5, 2009

A taxidermy specimen of Siu Fa – the female jaguar that lived in Hong Kong for nearly 20 years and died last year – is on display at the Hong Kong Zoological & Botanical Gardens’ Education & Exhibition Centre from today.

Born in Berlin Zoo in Germany in 1987, Siu Fa was sent to the park two years later and had two offspring. Well received by local and overseas visitors, she died of old age last June at the age of 21.

The Leisure & Cultural Services Department said turning Siu Fa into a specimen for education and exhibition purposes will continue her contribution to the conservation of endangered animal species.

The centre also displays a stuffed sea turtle, pangolin, crocodile, and moths and butterflies, animals’ skins including those of a python, cheetah and leopard, and information about tree propagation and butterflies commonly seen in Hong Kong.

It opens from 9am to 4.30pm daily. Admission is free.



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Md. mauling: Jaguar to be evaluated for health changes

Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009

Thurmont zookeeper, mauled by big cat, is ‘serious but stable’

by Jeremy Hauck – Staff Writer

A Frederick County animal control officer on Feb. 17 will evaluate a pair of jaguars involved in an attack on a Thurmont zookeeper this month.

If the jaguars’ temperament and health appear to be steady, they will return to their normal enclosure at Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo.

“Unless there is a health issue or a drastic change in their behavior or temperament … the quarantine would end,” said Harold Domer, director of Frederick County Animal Control, on Tuesday.

A change in health or temperament would lead to a discussion on further measures for the animals. “We would discuss that with the public health officer,” Domer said.
Diego, a 10-year-old male jaguar weighing between 180 and 200 pounds, attacked a female zookeeper on Jan. 18. Diego has been quarantined since, along with Evita, a 12-year-old female jaguar in the same enclosure at the zoo.

Deborah Gregory, 32, of Severn did not completely secure the jaguar area she was working in at about 11 a.m. on Jan. 18. Diego attacked and bit her. Other employees heard her cries and came to her aid, fending off the jaguar with a fire extinguisher.

Gregory, who had worked at the zoo for about one month, was responsive after the attack, but her injuries were serious enough to require hospitalization.

Gregory’s condition has been improved from critical to serious but stable, according to Deena Holler, trauma coordinator at R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

Holler could not discuss Gregory’s injuries, but said, “I think she should do well.”
Michael Douglas, a Frederick County Animal Control officer, is handling the investigation. Douglas responded to the zoo on Jan. 18 and accompanied Domer there on Jan. 19.

“We do have plans to interview the victim,” Domer said.

The 30-day quarantine is standard procedure.

“This quarantine period is a consistent procedure for incidents involving well-vaccinated exotic species,” according to Deborah Roubian, spokeswoman for the Frederick County Health Department, an agency involved in the case.

Diego and Evita are both longtime residents at the zoo, and were born in captivity.
“He’s been there since he was about a year old,” said Whitney Hahn, media liaison for the zoo and daughter of owner/director Richard Hahn. “He was born at another zoo in the U.S. Same with Evita.”

The zoo, owned and operated by the Hahn family since Richard Hahn bought the Jungleland Snake Farm in 1965, has about 450 animals on its 35 acres south of Thurmont.

The zoo is in the middle of its three-month off-season.

E-mail Jeremy Hauck at jhauck@gazette.net.



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