Tigers and jaguars and people, oh my!
By LeiLani Hector - Staff Reporter
The futures of jaguars and ti- gers are going to be determined by the people on the ground who live near their habitats, a science professor said recently.
Highline's Dr. Joe Figel gave his presentation on Tigres and Tigers: Big Cat Research in the Equatorial Tropics, at the Marine Science and Technology Center on Dec. 1.
The No. 1 threat for tigers and tigres — which is how jaguars are more widely known in Latin America — is poaching, Dr. Figel said. Other threats also contrib- uting to the declining numbers of tigers and jaguars are palm oil production and climate change, he said.
According to recent estimates, the global population of jaguars may be over 150,000 which clas- sifies them as "Near-Threatened" (not endangered), but they have lost about 50 percent of their his- toric distribution, and if it weren't for the heart of the Amazon, they would likely be considered an en- dangered species, Dr. Figel said.
Poaching is the No. 1 threat for jaguars because whenever there are jaguars and livestock, the jaguars are always seen as a threat and are hunted and killed. People see them as the reason that the cattle are killed, even if it was caused by other predators or disease, he said.
The global population of tigers is dangerously low, at 3,900 indi-
viduals, which classifies them as an endangered species, he said.
The reason that poaching is the No. 1 threat for tigers is be- cause of conflict with humans and their parts are being sold for tens of thousands of dollars for medicinal properties, food, and even status amongst other peo- ple, Dr. Figel said.
Another threat that also con- tributes to the declining numbers of tigers and jaguars is palm oil production, he said.
"Palm oil production has now become just an outright disaster," Dr. Figel said. "In the past two de- cades, at least 20 million acres of tropical rainforest has been con- verted to monocultures."
Palm oil is in about 50 percent of all supermarket products that we use, and about 85 percent of it is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia, where more than 25 percent of the world's remaining tigers may reside in these two countries. Palm oil is also con- verting jaguar habitats located in Latin America.
"Wherever we have roads, we have habitat fragmentation, we have more people, and with more people we usually have more hunting," Dr. Figel said.
If people continue to hunt these animals, ruin their habi- tats, and ruin the ecological bal- ance, the world could very well see the extinction of these iconic species, he said.
To learn more, visit http:// www.harimauconservation.org/