Jaguar sighting near Arizona-Mexico border gives researchers hope for species

Jaguars used to roam through parts of Arizona hundreds of years ago until becoming endangered.

"Jaguars use to be as far as north as the Grand Canyon in the beginning of the century, but because of poaching in the United States and poaching in Mexico, the population went south," aid Ganesh Marin, a Ph.D. student in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Arizona, and a National Geographic Early Career Explorer.

The population of jaguars since then has drastically declined. Now, they are considered near-threatened. Now, a rare sighting near the Arizona-Mexico border is giving experts hope that the cats are making a comeback.

There are over 100 camera traps near the border to scope out the wildlife movements, and researchers were surprised at what they found.

"Checking the cameras I saw something spotted, so I was thinking 'Woah, this is going to be great,'" said Marin.

The roaming jaguar captured on camera on a ranch in Mexico's Sonora state, just a couple of miles away from the border.

"It was a feeling like I’m really in jaguar country and the jaguar in here, so it was really exciting and touching for me," said Marin.

The research project is a joint effort of the University of Arizona and the University of Wyoming, in collaboration with the Cuenca Los Ojos Foundation and members from Santa Lucia Conservancy, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Phoenix Zoo, and Arizona State University.

Marin says the male jaguar was spotted near a stream known as Cajon Bonito, a water source that supports other species.

"We are having jaguars here because of the work of Cuenca Los Ojos Foundation, who have been doing a lot of restoration and preservation efforts on this land," said Marin.

Marin says spotting the jaguar is a good sign.

"This recording is giving us hope that females now are not too far because this is a juvenile, so we think right now, the jaguar population is expanding, and they are expanding in more northern territories right now," said Marin.

Marin, along with others, share one principal message.

"Let's protect the connectivity and the habitat for jaguars, and with that, we’ll ensure the other connectivity for the rest of the other species of wildlife," said Marin.

Marin says this is just the beginning. They are testing other technology to detect other species.

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