May 3, 2024
Today´s Paper

Jaguar Conservation Under Threat in Quintana Roo

TULUM, México – On Wednesday, May 2, 2024, a distressing scene unfolded on Highway 180D towards Chichen Itza, as a dead jaguar was discovered, its circumstances caught on video and shared on Facebook. Notably, the animal’s tail had been severed, adding a mysterious and troubling layer to the incident. Within minutes, the jaguar’s body disappeared, raising questions about whether the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection was involved in its removal.

This event has sparked a wave of indignation and sadness across social media platforms, with one user commenting, “It doesn’t seem like it was hit by a vehicle, but the tail being cut off is baffling. It’s heartbreaking. Despite occurring on the road, this is happening because of the insistence on pushing through the jungle with projects like the Maya Train. We’re seeing more animals being run over, displaced from their habitats, struggling to find food due to lack of prey, and of course, there will be poaching; all of this leading to the extinction of many species, with the beautiful jaguar facing a grim future.”

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Una publicación compartida de 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐓𝐮𝐥𝐮𝐦 𝐓𝐢𝐦𝐞𝐬 (@thetulumtimes)

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Since 2018, road signs warning of jaguar crossings have been installed along this highway. However, calls from researchers and organizations for the creation of wildlife crossings with appropriate infrastructure have gone unheeded.

First, the Loss of Habitat

Mircea Hidalgo, a member of Panthera Mexico’s Scientific Council and a researcher at the Academic Division of Biological Sciences at the Autonomous University of Juarez in Tabasco, highlights the rapid urban and population growth in Quintana Roo. This includes developments such as new subdivisions, hotels, tourist attractions, and the construction of the Maya Train in the past three years. “The rate of urban expansion in Quintana Roo is unmatched in Mexico and perhaps one of the fastest in the world,” Hidalgo noted. “This growth leads to more traffic on roads, particularly from Cancún to Tulum, significantly reducing the chances for wildlife to safely cross these roads.”

Jaguar Conservation Under Threat in Quintana Roo

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), over 60% of the jaguar’s habitat in Mexico has been lost in the past 40 years. The jaguar population, listed as endangered, is estimated to be between 4,000 and 5,000, with over half residing in the Yucatán Peninsula, which includes Quintana Roo, Campeche, and Yucatán. This area is a key priority for the continent’s conservation efforts but also has the highest deforestation rates in the country. Between 2001 and 2018, Quintana Roo alone saw 198,022 hectares of jungle cleared, with Campeche and Yucatán losing 410,488 and 247,982 hectares, respectively.

Increasingly Visible Roadkill

Hidalgo emphasizes that wildlife roadkill is a constant issue, made more apparent recently due to the involvement of civil society and organizations in these areas. Despite longstanding calls for proper wildlife crossing infrastructure, little progress has been made.

Jaguar Conservation Under Threat in Quintana Roo

The Maya Train, a major road and railway infrastructure project promoted by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, will add to the existing network of roads across the states of Tabasco, Chiapas, Campeche, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo, with approximately 1,525 kilometers of railway tracks planned through jungle areas. “As far as I understand, the Maya Train plans to include such infrastructure—I do not know the details, how many there are, or their exact locations—but the existing roads lack such facilities. Neither paint nor signs are enough; it has been globally proven that these do not reduce roadkill,” asserts Hidalgo.

Jaguar Conservation Under Threat in Quintana Roo

This incident on Highway 180D and the ongoing environmental concerns it highlights call for an immediate reassessment of how infrastructure projects like the Maya Train are planned and implemented. This would ensure the preservation of the region’s invaluable wildlife, particularly its endangered jaguar population.

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