An age-old conflict between farmers and jaguars in Colombia: Jaguars attack cattle. Farmers kill jaguars with shotguns. But rancher Jorge Barragan has declared a truce with the big cats.
About ten years ago, Barragan decided to sacrifice part of his family farm, La Aurora, to the savanna that provides shelter and food for jaguars. The family has banned the hunting of wild animals on their property.
The 61-year-old Barragan spends a large part of his day combing through footage of hidden cameras placed across the farm, which has also become a nature reserve, in Colombia’s eastern Casanare department.
According to the Panthera foundation dedicated to feline conservation, about 55 other Colombian farms are also trying to coexist with the jaguars they used to see as the enemy.
Measures include introducing stopping deforestation and ending hunting capybaras, giant rodents that form a large part of the jaguar diet.
“By taking away the jaguar’s habitat, by eliminating its prey, obviously it will go in search of domestic animals for food,” Samantha Rincon of the Panthera foundation told AFP.
The jaguar is listed as “near threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Population numbers are decreasing, with farming, residential and commercial development as the main threats.
There are around 15,000 jaguars left in Colombia, and about 170,000 in the Americas as a whole. The species once stretched from the southern United States to northern Argentina, but its range has since been halved, and the animal is extinct in several countries.
Barragan said he would love to see more farmers commit to protecting the felines. “Finding a cat on a cattle farm always produces a certain fear…but our experience shows that we can coexist with the jaguar,” he said.
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