Protecting apex predator cats by working with ranchers in Sonora, Mexico.
Project Wildcat, a Signature Program of GreaterGood.org, and in partnership with Primero Conservation, works with the ranchers of Sonora to cohabitate peacefully with the majestic jaguar and other endangered species. The program’s hands-on approach teaches ranchers enhanced cattle management techniques and provides related infrastructural improvements that limit the cattle’s grazing range, like fencing and water systems. This process provides a more prosperous livelihood for the rancher while protecting the cattle from predation by jaguars and other apex predators. This then keeps the big cats safe from retaliatory killings by the ranchers, and shields the wildlife’s natural habitat from degradation caused by cattle grazing.
In conjunction with similar conservation efforts in the region by the Northern Jaguar Project and other organizations, there are now 58,240 acres of protected wildlife corridor that is considered “jaguar friendly”.
The Threatened Jaguar
Jaguars were once the supreme predators of the Sonoran Desert in Mexico, yet only 80 remain today. This magnificent creature is the third largest cat in the world and sits at the top of the food chain in their native habitat. Their habitat, which extends throughout Central America as far south as Argentina, is now threatened by habitat loss and human conflict. Once abundant across the continent, they are now listed as threatened or endangered nearly everywhere they call home, particularly along the U.S. Mexico border. It is our responsibility to ensure land for these jaguars and other predators to roam freely.
Project Wildcat works in the Río Bavispe lowlands, just north of the existing Northern Jaguar Reserve in Sonora, Mexico. This is the northernmost population where jaguars are known to exist, as well as home to an amazing diversity of species. As of November 2017, motion-censored wildlife cameras installed by Project Wildcat captured 48 different species, revealing 22 birds, 20 mammals, 4 reptile, 1 amphibian, and a butterfly. Seven individual jaguars have pranced in front of the camera, including one female who was photographed on three different ranches, once with a cub!
Project Wildcat is working with six ranches who have agreed to refrain from killing jaguars and other predators in exchange for training, supplies, and equipment to protect their cattle. By offsetting cattle deaths with these incentives, these ranchers can no longer justify killing jaguars and other predators like mountain lions, ocelots, and bears. This is a huge accomplishment, as ranchers often kill jaguars and other predators in retaliation for these predators eating their livestock. These improved cattle management techniques have reduce jaguar predation on calves by 75%!
Meet Tom Van Devender, Director
Thomas R. Van Devender (pictured right) was the Senior Research Scientist at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum for 25 years, where he conducted research on a broad range of natural history topics. He has published well over a hundred publications on a range of topics, including natural history, paleoecology, desert grasslands, desert tortoise ecology, local floras, ethnobotany, herpetofaunas and the Madrean Archipelago.
In May 2015, Tom began as the Director of Biodiversity Programs at GreaterGood.org, where he organizes biodiversity inventories to Sonoran Sky Islands in the Madrean Discovery Expeditions (MDE) program and manages a Predator Conservation Program. From 2009 to 2014, Tom was the Manager of the Madrean Archipelago Biodiversity Assessment (MABA) project at Sky Island Alliance. MABA documented the diversity of animals and plants in the 35 isolated Sky Island ranges and complexes in Sonora, Mexico. Tom has organized ten binational expeditions with large volunteer groups of taxonomic specialists, land managers, college professors and students, local residents, photographers, and journalists to make new observations in high-diversity areas in Sky Island ranges in Sonora.