World Environment Day
By Steven R. King, Ph.D.
On this World Environment Day 2017, we would like to connect the dots between the long-term thriving of jaguars, habitat conservation, organic shade grown coffee, new medicines from the forest, climate change, indigenous cosmology, archaeology, human health, education, forest corridors and international cooperation to enhance species survival. In fact, the center point of these connections is the majestic jaguar Panthera onca, the largest big cat in the western hemisphere and third largest of the big cats on the planet (only tigers and lions are bigger). Jaguars do however have the most powerful jaws of all the large cats!
Jaguars have and do play central roles in the ecology, cosmology and shamanic traditions of multiple indigenous people in Central and South America, which is described in a wonderful book, Indomitable Beast, by one of the world’s pre-eminent jaguar and large cat conservationists and scientists, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz (@DrRabinowitz). A number of indigenous cultures believe that shamans and healers can and do transform themselves into jaguars as part of their connection to the forest and spirit world. Other groups believe that when their people pass away some of them remain alive in the forest in the form of jaguars. There are also numerous archaeological sites in Central and South America that have depictions of jaguars in their places of worship and jaguars are deemed powerful animal spirits that assist leaders, healers and communities.
Jaguars are threatened by hunting and habitat destruction throughout their range, from Southern South America to Arizona in the southern US. Jaguars have been hunted for their beautiful skins, especially after Jackie Kennedy was portrayed in a glamorous photograph in a spotted cat skin garment when her husband was president, and they are also at times shot on sight by local people concerned about livestock loss on their farms. Trade in jaguar skins is prohibited worldwide but hunting does still take place.
Jaguars require large territories to roam as part of their behavior, but rapid deforestation for agriculture, forestry and development have fragmented much of the traditional habitats of jaguars and threatened their long-term survival. Fortunately, several decades of work by Dr. Rabinowitz and his colleagues at the conservation organization Panthera (@PantheraCats), have led to the formation of the Jaguar Corridor Initiative, a cooperative approach among multiple nations to create connected forest corridors that seek to provide jaguars with adequate territory to maintain their populations as they seek mates and food. These forest corridors in places like Central America allow for shade grown organic coffee to be cultivated on the edges of the forest in agroforestry systems. The trees and corridors also contribute to capturing carbon, which is helping to manage climate change. The more forest cover, the better.
The plants within these forest corridors are also part of the medical plant ecosystems of local and indigenous people, whose health and well-being are in part maintained by these plant medicines. The Neonorm™ Calf and Foal products are derived from one of the widespread medicinal tree species, Croton lechleri, which grows in secondary and primary forest corridors in South America.
We at Jaguar Animal Heath wish to pay tribute today and every day to jaguars, to the scientists, environmentalists, local people, communities and governments that recognize our interdependence and dependence on intact ecosystems that are so vitally important to all the plants, animals, species and humans on Earth!
In 2011, guided by Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, Bob Simon of “60 Minutes” journeyed into the Brazilian Pantanal, home to the highest density of jaguars in the world, in hopes of capturing this most elusive wild cat on camera.