Can jaguar tourism save Bolivia’s fast dwindling forests?

first_imgFew countries in the tropics have seen trees chopped down as quickly as Bolivia did between 2001 and 2017.Within Bolivia, nearly two-thirds of that loss occurred in just a single state—Santa Cruz—as agribusiness activity, namely cattle ranching and soy farming, ramped up.This loss has greatly reduced the extent of habitat for some of Bolivia’s best known species, including the largest land predator in the Americas, the jaguar. On top of habitat loss, jaguars in Santa Cruz are both persecuted by landowners who see them as a danger to livestock, and targeted in a lucrative new trade in their parts, including teeth and bones.Duston Larsen, the owner of San Miguelito Ranch, is working to reverse that trend by upending the perception that jaguars necessarily need be the enemy of ranchers. ÑUFLO DE CHÁVEZ, Bolivia — Few countries in the tropics have seen their trees chopped down as quickly as Bolivia did between 2001 and 2017. According to data from the University of Maryland and World Resources Institute’s Global Forest Watch, Bolivia lost 45,000 square kilometers (17,400 square miles) of tree cover, or 7 percent of its total forest cover, since the turn of the century. That represents an area larger than the state of Ohio.Within Bolivia, nearly two-thirds of that loss occurred in just a single state — Santa Cruz — as agribusiness activity, namely cattle ranching and soy farming, ramped up. As is the case in neighboring Brazil, soy and cattle are now big business in Bolivia. And in fact, Brazilians, as well as people of European and North American descent, are big players in Bolivia’s soy and cattle industries.Tree cover loss in Eastern Bolivia near San Miguelito Ranch, Santa Cruz between 2001 and 2017. Santa Cruz lost 2.92M ha of tree cover between 2001 and 2017 according to data from the University of Maryland and Global Forest Watch.This loss has greatly reduced the extent of habitat for some of Bolivia’s best-known species, including the largest land predator in the Americas, the jaguar (Panthera onca). On top of habitat loss, jaguars in Santa Cruz are both persecuted by landowners who see them as a danger to livestock, and targeted in a lucrative new trade in their parts, including teeth and bones. While trafficking in jaguar parts is illegal in Bolivia, laws are rarely enforced.Jaguars are thus increasingly under pressure in Santa Cruz and other parts of Bolivia where natural forests are giving way to agricultural landscapes.But one landowner is working to reverse that trend by upending the perception that jaguars are the de facto enemy of ranchers.Duston Larsen runs San Miguelito, a ranch that conservationists say serves as a model for a different approach to navigating the rancher-jaguar conflict in Bolivia and beyond.last_img

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