San José, Costa Rica – The Americas’ largest wild cat, the elusive and iconic jaguar, received a historic seal of protection yesterday with the official recognition of Costa Rica’s Jaguar Corridor and the establishment of the country’s first official jaguar conservation strategy.
On July 5th, Costa Rica’s Minister of Environment, Energy and Telecommunications (MINAET), Dr. René Castro, presided over the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, CEO of Panthera, the world’s leading wild cat conservation organization, and MINAET, in San José. Through this agreement, which will be later ratified and implemented by Costa Rica’s Conservation Areas National System (SINAC) Department Executive Director, Rafael Gutiérrez, both groups commit to carrying out rigorous scientific and conservation initiatives that will help in securing protected wild lands linking jaguar populations in Costa Rica and beyond, as well as ensure that the development of land around these protected areas is done in a way to benefit both wildlife and local communities.
Jaguar expert, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, stated, “The signing of this historic agreement marks a turning point for the future for the jaguar not only in Costa Rica, but for jaguars throughout Central and South America. This represents the fourth MOU that Panthera has signed with a Latin American government and once executed, will allow Panthera to better implement a ‘connect and protect’ strategy that links and allows safe passage for jaguar populations throughout the species’ range, from northern Mexico, through the heart of Costa Rica, to Argentina.”
Dr. René Castro added, “Each time that we connect wild areas, we conserve our biodiversity and benefit flagship species like the jaguar.”
Crowned by Nicaragua and bordered by Panama to the south, Costa Rica serves as a critical link in the global Jaguar Corridor, which aims to connect and protect jaguar populations ranging from Mexico to Argentina to ensure the species’ genetic diversity and survival.
Panthera’s CEO, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, explains the importance of the Jaguar Corridor to MINAET Minister, Dr. René Castro, and SINAC Executive Director, Rafael Gutiérrez.
Operating under the umbrella of the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Telecommunications (MINAET), SINAC oversees the management of Costa Rica’s wildlife, forestry and water and national parks system, including over 160 protected areas. Since 2008, Panthera’s jaguar scientists have worked in partnership with SINAC and local partners to research the status of jaguar populations inside the country’s protected areas, assess threats facing jaguars and other wildlife, including land developments such as roads and reservoirs, implement community-based environmental education projects and train ranchers in human-jaguar conflict mitigation techniques that allow for local communities to coexist with jaguars.
Panthera’s MesoAmerica and Costa Rica Jaguar Coordinator, Roberto Salom-Pérez, explained, “Panthera’s efforts are a winning conservation strategy not only for jaguars, but also for the thousands of other animal and plant species with which they share their homes, including cougars, ocelots and other wild cats. Sharing data gathered through these projects with SINAC, land development companies, farmers and local stakeholders, Panthera’s Costa Rica team is identifying, creating and protecting the most viable land, or biological corridors, that connect jaguar populations. This is a proud moment for Costa Rica and shows how committed the country is to conserving the jaguar.”
Today, Costa Rica serves as one of 18 Latin American countries that is home to the jaguar, and one of 13 countries in which Panthera is conducting jaguar conservation initiatives. Highlighted by the United Nations Development Programme in 2011 for its adherence to strong environmental sustainability policies and practices, Costa Rica’s Conservation Areas National System (SINAC) is distinguished as one of the best in the region, with more than 25% of the country’s land classified and managed as part of the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Telecommunication’s National Biological Corridor Program (NBCP).
NBCP Coordinator, Mario Coto Hidalgo, said, “This agreement confirms the commitment of the Ministry regarding the protection of endangered species, in this particular case the jaguar, but also the ecosystems that the species inhabits; and it protects the interests of local communities who are able to participate in the implementation of conservation strategies for the jaguar. The agreement also establishes the opportunity to better address human-jaguar conflict situations, and to make better and more informed decisions in the management of Protected Areas and biological corridors within the country, which are inhabited by this flagship species.”