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Jaguar named “Short-tail” first one documented to cross Belize-Guatemala border

Posted: Wednesday, July 29, 2020. 1:17 pm CST.

By BBN Staff: An adult-male jaguar nicknamed “Short-tail” (due to a shortened defect of its tail) was filmed on camera on both sides of the border in Belize and Guatemala, making him the first confirmed individual jaguar to cross the international boundary.

The news was published by scientists of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in a journal called CATnews, a cat specialist group which is a part of the Species Survival Commission of the IUCN.  The researchers say this finding highlights the importance of international, transboundary collaboration to study and protect jaguars.

Jaguars are listed as near threatened on the IUCN Red List. According to the big cat conservation NGO Panthera, the species may be elevated to “vulnerable” in the coming year.

Jaguars are threatened by habitat loss, deforestation, loss of prey, and illegal hunting.  Driven by demand in China, jaguars’ fangs, claws, heads and genitals are trafficked for use in traditional Chinese medicine and as ornaments. Ayahuasca tourism drives some trafficking of jaguar parts in South America.

Short-Tail was first photographed in Belize in 2009 with his whole tail and then with most of it missing (for unknown reasons) in 2011. He was caught on camera trap in Guatemala in 2013 and then returned to Belize in 2014. But it wasn’t until a conference in 2018 that researchers realized this was the same animal, and the first recorded transboundary jaguar in the region.

“We were surprised and delighted when we saw that ‘Short-Tail’ was photographed by other researchers,” Rony García-Anleu of WCS’s Guatemala program and the paper’s lead author, said in a statement. “This highlights the importance and potential for collaborative work between Belize and Guatemala and across the Maya Forest region.”

The Maya Forest spans from Colombia to Mexico, covering an area three times the size of Switzerland. One of the five great Mesoamerican forests, the region is a critical area for jaguars and other wildlife, including the endangered Central American spider monkey or Geoffroy’s spider monkey and Baird’s tapir as well as the critically endangered Central American river turtle.

The government of Belize approved a proposal to protect the Maya Forest corridor in 2019. If secured, it would be the largest contiguous area of forest in Central America. However, it may be some time before this key stretch of forest is legally protected.


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