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New Jaguar Sighting Boosts AZ Wilderness Protection Efforts

February 25, 2010

TUCSON, Ariz. - Conservationists say a recent remote-camera photo of an endangered jaguar 30 miles south of the Mexico/Arizona border confirms the need for preserving more of Arizona's remaining wild lands. Jaguars are known to roam from Argentina northward to Arizona and New Mexico.

Biologist Sergio Avila, northern Mexico conservation program coordinator with Tucson-based Sky Island Alliance, says the new sighting means this jaguar could easily be crossing into Arizona.

"A jaguar can move 30 miles in one day. That's not a challenge. The challenge is to find open corridors and then get to habitat that's protected and that these animals can occupy and thrive in."

Sky Island Alliance supports a bill sponsored by Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva to secure wilderness protection for the Tumacacori Highlands south of Tucson. The primary opposition has come from area mining interests.

Avila says the most important factor in protecting jaguars is to protect their habitat on public lands.

"Wilderness designation is the most effective tool to protect habitat - not only for jaguars but for all the species that live within the habitat of a jaguar. And that would include their wild prey, such as deer or javelina."

Avila says it is a misconception that conservationists are seeking to create large populations of jaguars in concentrated areas.

"The nature of the endangered jaguar is of an elusive, solitary animal with large territories."

In a recent reversal of policy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has committed to developing a recovery plan and "designated critical habitat" for the jaguar.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ