September 27, 2016

Jaguar attacks in Region 2

Dear Editor,
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promptly responded to reports of Jaguar attacks on livestock in Region 2, by conducting investigative visits to the three affected communities of Lima Sands, Tapakuma and Whyaka Mainstay.
During the visits, detailed discussions were held with the affected communities which pointed to the need for the Jaguar situation to be treated with urgency. As such, the EPA started to conduct awareness sessions with the communities encouraging them to keep livestock and cattle in enclosures to deter the Jaguar(s) and thus preventing their animals from becoming easy prey. As a last recourse, traps were built, by both community members and the EPA team, and set at strategic locations in the communities where the Jaguar(s) are known to frequent.
The EPA received news on Friday, February 19, and Thursday, March 11, 2016, that a female and a male (on the later date) jaguar were caught in the traps set. On receipt of this news from residents of the Mainstay community, the EPA quickly coordinated with the Wildlife Management Authority, Protected Areas Commission, Transport and Harbour, Anna Regina Police Station, and Guyana Livestock Development Authority for the safe transport and relocation of the Jaguars. Officers of the EPA and the Wildlife Management Authority accompanied by a veterinarian then promptly travelled to Mainstay on both occasions to secure the Jaguars and ensure their safe transport to Georgetown. The Jaguars were relocated to the Guyana Zoological Park where they were allowed to acclimatise for 3-4 days before patrons were able to view them.
The EPA wishes to bring to the public‘s attention that while in both cases, trapping and relocating were the last recourse, there are many preventive measures to deter the Jaguar from attacking livestock, and from entering your community.
The Jaguar is the largest cat of the Americas, weighing up to 100kg (220 pounds). Their big bodies need a lot of food and they prey on forest dwellers such as peccaries (bush hogs), deer, tapir (bush cow), turtles, armadillos to maintain their body mass.  Being a predator at the top of the food chain, Jaguars play an important role in maintaining a healthy environment, for example, simply by controlling the population of animals lower down the food chain.
But why are Jaguars coming into villages? The simple answer is: food. Jaguars are shy by nature. Fortunately, there are still a few thousand Jaguars left in Guyana, but even people that walk the forests frequently do not see them because these predators tend to be elusive, hiding from sight and avoiding interaction.
While the quest for food may be a reason for Jaguars “trespassing” into human space, old age or injuries have been also known to cause these cats to encroach into villages. Also, when the animal can no longer hunt agile, alert wild prey, they will try to survive on the more sluggish and less vigilant domestic animals. Additionally, a healthy but young individual in search of its own territory could also accidentally stumble upon the richness of easy foods near homes and decide that this area serves perfectly well as a territory.                                                                     It is possible that the encroachment of the Jaguar(s) into the Region 2 communities is linked to the long dry season currently being experienced. With the forest being very dry at present, regular prey may have moved closer to water sources. As such, the Jaguar in moving in search of other sources of food or even in following the prey, stumbled upon “easy” food in the communities.
To keep Jaguars from human dwelling space, it would require keeping domesticated animals in well-constructed pens or corrals at night. Motion-triggered light or loud sounds near the livestock have also proven to work. The surprise effect is what will make the cat change its mind and find food elsewhere.  Jaguars are legally protected in Guyana under the Wildlife Management and Conservation Regulations (WMCR) 2013  and any incidents with Jaguars can be reported to EPA Wildlife Unit at Phone: 225-5467/225-6048 ext 226.

Karen Lee-Persaud,
Ministry of Natural

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