Monday 04 january 2021
Header photo by: Proyecto Sebraba
As part of the Operation Jaguar project, our Venezuelan partner Proyecto Sebraba organized an online event to promote the importance of jaguar conservation among a broad public. The event was organized on International Jaguar Day, a day that celebrates the Americas largest wild cat as an umbrella species for biodiversity conservation. Increased deforestation and poaching have resulted in a ‘near threatened’ status of the jaguar.
Proyecto Sebraba, led by Maria Fernanda Sanches Puerto, is on a mission: The organization wants to inform Venezuelan citizens about the largest feline in their country, the animal greatest threats and how it can be protected against these threats. The organization makes scientific information accessible to a broad public to increase awareness about the worrying situation for the jaguar.
Future for Nature award
Earlier this year, Maria Fernanda won the Future for Nature award, a prize that is awarded annually to young conservationists who set an example. Venezuela has been in crisis for years and the state where María works is ravaged by armed rebel groups. Her organization Proyecto Sebraba is one of the last organizations that is still monitoring and protecting the jaguars in the area.
Illegal trade in jaguar products
During the event, I gave a presentation on the illegal trade in jaguar products, such as canines, bones and other body parts. This trade is driven by growing demand for tiger products in Asia, which are less and less available. The jaguar, with its relatively large teeth and claws, is a good substitute for tiger products. The difference is hard to tell, and to add to the confusion, jaguars in China are referred to as ‘American tigers’.
Ecotourism in Venezuela
An interesting part of the programme was also the topic of ecotourism in Venezuela. By promoting responsible tourism aimed at special animal species such as the jaguar in Venezuela, an attractive source of income is created for the local population and thus broader support for protecting local animal species.
Focus on the youngest generation of Venezuelans
Part of the event was also a special programme in which children from all over the country participated. They were asked to make a drawing and to record a short video in which they explained why the jaguar is so important to their country. Great to see the result!
I was a jury member and found the focus on Venezuela’s youngest generation during this part of the program very inspiring. To be successful in protecting the jaguar, we need to go far beyond traditional conservation. The jaguar is seen as a problem and dangerous animal by many communities in Venezuela. By teaching the children of those communities about the jaguar and what this animal can mean for their country, we hope – starting with the youngest generation – to change the negative image of the jaguar.
Operation Jaguar is a joint project of IUCN NL, IFAW, Earth League International and ARTIS. The project is supported by the Dutch Postcode Lottery.