An environmental group asked the US Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday to help reintroduce the jaguar to the Southwest, where it lived for hundreds of thousands of years until it was reduced to just a single known specimen. survives in this area.
This male, named Sombra, has been seen in southern Arizona on several occasions since it was first captured on wildlife camera in the Dos Cabezas Mountains in 2016, including a video from the Center for Biological Diversity in 2017. It is known that there are a few specimens that live in the state of Sonora, Mexico, on the other side of the border.
The center wants the federal agency to help expand needed jaguar habitat in remote areas and launch an experimental population in New Mexico’s Gila National Forest along the Arizona border.
“While it has been more than 50 years since the jaguar has been placed on the endangered species list, we must not face the real possibility that this sole Arizona jaguar will be the last,” said Michael J. Robinson, lead advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity Conservation, Martha Williams, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.
“This could be an incredible opportunity for us to restore a native species that has been here for hundreds of thousands of years and deserves to return,” Robinson said in an interview.
Jaguars were widespread throughout North America until they were hunted to the point of extinction for their impressive spotted pelts and to protect livestock.
Robinson said inaction could also harm efforts to save dwindling jaguar populations in Mexico, which need the genetic diversity made possible by mating with a new group in the north.
Jaguar populations are also declining in Mexico and many parts of South America. The cats are being reintroduced to their historic habitat in Argentina through a program in which they are kept in captivity and later released.
The center was one of the groups involved in a successful effort to promote the recovery of gray wolf populations that were on the brink of extinction half a century ago.
Like jaguars, gray wolves once roamed most of the United States, but were wiped out from most of the country by the 1930s due to government-sponsored poisoning and trapping campaigns.