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Building on legacy of world’s most influential jaguar scientist, leaders inaugurate the Dr. Alan Rabinowitz Research Centre in Belize

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Posted: Wednesday, August 23, 2023. 11:25 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Efforts to protect jaguars and other wildlife have received a major boost thanks to the inauguration of a new research center in Belize named in honor of Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, the pioneering wild cat scientist who helped establish Belize’s first jaguar preserve and was once called the “Indiana Jones of Wildlife Conservation” by TIME Magazine.

Earlier this month, leaders from Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, and the Belize Audubon Society (BAS), and Michelle Kwan, U.S. Ambassador to Belize, inaugurated the Dr. Alan Rabinowitz Research Centre at the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, Stann Creek District.

Dr. Rabinowitz, who died in August 2018, helped create seven major protected areas worldwide. After coming to Belize in 1982, Rabinowitz helped conceptualize and implement the Jaguar Corridor Initiative, which covers a vast area of approximately six million square kilometers, extending from Mexico to Argentina.

The new Research Centre will facilitate a wide range of research activities by Panthera and BAS aimed at advancing wildlife conservation within the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and its surrounding ecosystems. The Centre’s work will focus on biodiversity assessment, habitat restoration and initiatives that improve community livelihoods, while enhancing coexistence between local communities and wildlife. The Centre will additionally showcase Dr. Rabinowitz’s accomplishments and decades-long commitment to jaguar conservation, educating visitors on the importance of protecting this enigmatic species.

Building upon Dr. Rabinowitz’s legacy, Panthera and BAS have conducted critical conservation work in the Cockscomb Preserve. Using data from the world’s longest-running jaguar monitoring study, Panthera has contributed to more than 30 peer-reviewed publications on the species, along with other wildlife including ocelots and margays. After more than two decades of research and conservation, the organizations have protected nearly 200 jaguars, while mitigating local human-cat conflict and unveiling the felids’ fascinating life histories.

Belize is a vital jaguar stronghold with a significant migration passage. The Maya Forest Corridor plays a key role in linking essential jaguar habitats, including the Maya Mountains, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Rio Bravo and private forests in the northwest. This area also supports imperiled species like the Critically Endangered Central American spider monkey and the Endangered Baird’s tapir. The corridor, now a 5-6-mile-long bottleneck, remains one of the last squeeze points for jaguar migration between Mexico, Guatemala, and Central and South America. Preserving habitat connectivity is vital for the genetic diversity and health of the future of the species.

 

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