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Colombia a country with countless landscapes and colours

2019-03-14

It counts with considerable wealth of natural resources And it occupies second place among the top 12 countries of the world in terms of biological diversity. After Brasil. It's one of 11 countries that still conserves extensive swaths of its original forests and still relatively free from threats. That means that in these ecosystems the biological and evolutionary processes will continue to generate and maintain the biodiversity we all depend on. This diversity in ecosystems is due to the country's privileged location the northeastern tip of South America. It makes it a bridge between North and Central America with the south of the continent. It is also a habitat for the largest jaguar in the Americas, the jaguar. Tracking and Conservation of Jaguars. In Colombia's eastern plains, in the Casanare department you can find the Aurora reserve. A place full of life where you can find a large variety of bird species, reptiles, rodents and felines. The jaguar stands out. The jaguar is distributed from the southern United States, to the northern part of Argentina. It prefers jungles with water sources and riverbanks. This reserve represents an important corridor for this species and offers the necessary characteristics for their adaptation and habitat. We find ourselves in a corridor where jaguars travel from east to west and vice versa. Here at the Aurora Reserve, or Hato la Aurora, since its known as both, since it is a Cattle ranch as well as a nature reserve. And this is a corridor through which the jaguars pass through. Nonetheless, one of the causes for the loss of biodiversity and especially of this species, is due to the illegal use of wild animals. This is reflected with the great demand of wildlife to be illegally trafficked and consumed. In order to avoid illegal selling and other threats, The Aurora Reserve has been working to preserve these individuals since 2009. It's been hard work, yet it has given back many good things. This passion for jaguars started in 2009. But before that, in the year 2000 we had already noticed their tracks and presence in some areas of the hato. But it wasn't until 2009, when we installed camera traps, that the passion to follow and find out more about how and where they lived So we began the work with camera traps in 2009 and that has continued until today so up to 2017 we've had 8 years of taking historic images continuously, and this is one of the corridors most used by them. The use of camera traps in the beginning.. Like I said we began in 2009, more by chance a student from the National University came interested in doing a thesis regarding the conflict these felines had with cattle ranchers. That student found Hato la Aurora, as a reference since we already knew about the presence of jaguars, but we didn't have solid evidence. That's where the idea of camera traps came from, and the jaguars story begins that year. In the beginning there were many mistakes, because we didn't know how to use the camera traps, we didn't know where they circulated, the cameras weren't installed properly in either very narrow or wide paths, so we didn't capture good images. We didn't change the camera during the rainy season. There were many mistakes but also many surprises. The latter won, which is why we wanted to continue working as well as innovating, because as the results from the camera traps improved, the interest also increased. Monitoring is done every month. You take down a camera and upload that month's information you register it, and then you install it again, and change the batteries. The batteries last roughly 30 days or 25 days, depending on the camera, but that's the average. Change the memory card if necessary, clean it, and install it in the same place again. One of the successes of using camera traps, and conduct such an accurate census is because the camera is kept in the same place. if the location varies because of winter or summer when they need to be moved so that the rains don't affect them you do it, but not by much, maximum 50 m to 60 m, so that they remain in the same place All these years tracking and monitoring the jaguars has allowed them to identify an important number of animals in the reserve and the main motivation has now become to continue working for the preservation of this big cat in order to avoid its extinction. The results have been important. As I've said, in the year 2009 we only registered two individuals, a male and a female. a female that even today we are still able to register her, and from there camera traps were divided up into two sections In 2010, when I was teaching myself to use these camera traps enthusiastically, I also registered two females, 4 cubs, and a male. in a period of 4 years. And as of 2014 I began an alliance with the Panthera foundation who do work around the globe in the conservation of felines. With Panthera Colombia. With Esteban Payn and a whole wonderful team of scientists that taught me to complement the information and we started collecting more information. That year, we did interesting work because we installed 110 cameras throughout the whole area, 140km2 were covered. Almost the whole hato, 90% of it. There we could identify this corridor in a very precise way. During the time we did that work, which were two months, It began at the end of the dry season in 2014, for two months.. so until the beginning of the rainy season, we identified 6 jaguars. Four males and two females. From then on, from 2014 until now, we do constant monitoring. In this corridor and in another one discovered in 2015. That corridor goes from north to south in the reserve. From 2009 until today, we have established a census of 25 jaguars. Jaguars that have been born here, or lived here or are simply passing through.. We've been fortunate to film them, so we've been able to register them in the census. It's also been very important to learn how to identify them. Identifying the jaguars was also a learning process, but one that was beautiful to discover, like how the jaguar's left and right sides have different markings. That allowed us to identify individuals and give them an identity. Each jaguar has a name. Now we know that Cayenita is the daughter of Mariposa, and that she was born in 2011, she returned in 2014 and in 2015 she gave birth, two cubs, and at the beginning of this year, 2017, Cayenita had two other cubs. That has been important, because we have registered the print evidence not print but their coat markings, as well as their historical reference, some of their biography. It's been interesting. We were so excited the fist time we found out we had a jaguar. To know that our work in conservation was bearing fruit gave us immense joy. That's why I say that each time we begin we're even more enthusiastic. To have America's largest feline in these lands.. which represents a well managed ecosystem, it was wonderful. Each time there are more surprises. For example today, as you just saw, we have a camera that just registered three new cubs. I have to analyse it to see who the mother is. Whether it's a new mom and who are the cubs, to see if I've already identified them. Like I said, at the start of the year we identified three cubs, but of two different moms. Here we have three cubs walking by with one female. So now, in the next few days, we have to identify who those individuals are. The jaguar is related to, and resembles, the leopard, but are generally larger. They have a more robust constitution and their behaviour and habitat are more like the tiger's. Even though they prefer dense and humid jungles, they can adjust to more wooded or open areas as well. They are fundamentally solitary animals. They generally ambush their prey. Making them opportunistic when choosing prey. This species is key to stabilising the ecosystems in which it lives, and as a predator, it regulates the population of the species it hunts. The jaguar is the third largest feline in the world. It's the largest feline in the Americas. It is also the feline with the strongest bite of all. That is an important characteristic, let's say. It's a predator, but as I mentioned before, it naturally regulates the ecosystem. An animal can weigh between 60 or 70 kilos to 150 kilos. This range of weight has been registered in Mexico, Venezuela and Brasil. We haven't recorded this in Colombia, maybe someone has, but there isn't a scientific record of how much a jaguar weighs in the Orinoco region, specifically those found here, a study must be done in the future. The animals are 2 to 2.50 m long, from their nose to their tail. They can be just as tall as the puma, but a lot bigger. The jaguar is the only species that goes from Mexico to Brasil. Even if the Mexican jaguar is smaller and in Brasil they weigh 150 kilos, it's the same animal. It varies due to where it lives, what it hunts and eats.. Its diet establishes whether it's larger or smaller. It can have up to 4 cubs. But generally, living in conflict areas or where prey is scarce, they will raise two or one cub. Today, as you saw from one camera, three cubs went by. That's almost indicative of.. if she gave birth to the three cubs, they'll reach maturity 100%. Because they have good shelter, prey and water. That is partly why the animal lives calmly in this environment, and now when it's older, has socialised its territory and has the capacity to hunt can leave the territory with a lot more experience. The male can cover an area of approximately 100km2. Females half of that, 45 or 50 km2. The numbers I give you come from studies made in Brasil, Mexico and part of Venezuela. Here we need to do an accurate study. The area here in the Aurora for jaguars we have to study that. Because we see an increase in agriculture surrounding this area. That prevents them from having a wide range, or from having their territory be larger their natural territory I believe is decreased since now there are more crops surrounding it. How important is it to have planned agricultural areas, with a state order, because the mess this department is undergoing we are in danger of disapperaing these vulnerable species, like the jaguar, Not only jaguars, other species have been identified, important reasons to preserve them and maintain balance in these ecosystems. We have the four felines found in the Orinoco region which are very representative. There's the puma, which is the second largest, you can also find the ocelot, and the jaguarundi, known here as the Cervantes cat. The four felines show up in the cameras as well. There's an interesting population of ocelots and pumas. We don't know the exact number, but we have a good amount. There's also a good number of prey. Mountain prey like boars, the paca, the agouti, the caiman also, the turtle, the tortoise, Let's say they're mountain animals and on the savannah you find capybaras, deers, and those are their prey. All of that is registered by the cameras. Another surprise we've had in the last two years has been the presence of the tapir. That's also an indicator that we have a well balanced and stable ecosystem. The presence of this animal makes us understand that we have a well maintained ecosystem. I think the most important thing, and it's on the mind of each cattle rancher, whether they are from the plains, the coast or the south of the country, is to leave it intact. I think the less impact we have on the environment, the place where we live, where we have our economy, inside a farm, the most important thing is not to interfere with the ecosystem. Or do so as little as possible, if our economy depends on agriculture. Whether it be crops or livestock. By doing that not only are we caring for the animals, we're also caring for the forest. That's the most important thing. The presence of the feline in particular we must respect their prey, so as not to compete with them. Whether they be in the forest or on the savannah. We must leave the deer, capybaras and boars alone, and not interfere. That will allow the feline to stay. Jorge Barragan's objective is to protect these felines and increase their population. Since it's a critically endangered species, he hopes to repopulate all the biological corridors which are the habitat of this wonderful feline. That is why Jorge is trying to educate people so that they can contribute their grain of sand in protecting wildlife and that way continue learning and doing what he likes most, to protect the largest feline in the Americas. To do both things, combine extensive cattle farming, which is a very ancient and productive system and combine it with conservation is an example. There's no need to cut down things to obtain a large field. The grasslands are already established. You have to maintain them so that the forest doesn't grow in certain areas, but what I hope for is for this to remain intact. For cattle ranching in the plains, which is a culture and a way of life, and which is disappearing, to endure. For future generations. Some changes are needed, for systems that are being implemented by governments, so you have to to it, but when possible you must protect the ecosystem, allow it to remain as it is time after time. I want to communicate to the plains a message of conservation. I think it's important. The greatest satisfaction is for future generations to know these animals, these ecosystems that are taken care of. To not have to see them only in films, to go to the different areas, not just the Colombian plains. We want to be an example for the country. The most important thing is for this desire to protect the environment to continue, Each time you plant a seed, like this, for others to do so as well. Wherever we may be living, we must help the conservation effort. I would like to invite everyone who works in the countryside, to be an example, not only in conserving nature, but in conserving culture as well. When we start to safeguard our culture, and encourage youth to believe in their land, their essence and where they come from, then we are really protecting the plains and any other part of the country. We want the youth to take part in this. That is the message so that this can endure. They will be the ones to look after this and make sure it lasts, under this system or an improved one, Young people are responsible for preserving this from now on.