June 20, 2012
Jaguar in the Brazilian Pantanal.
Henrique Concone, a biologist with the wildlife conservation group Pró-Carnívoros, and Fernando Azevedo analyzed revenue generated from night tours at Fazenda Sao Francisco, a ranch in the southern Pantanal in Brazil, and compared it with losses caused by jaguar predation. They found that during a five-year period, revenue from nearly 12,000 night tour participants amounted to $497,000, while the loss of 44 head of cattle from jaguar attacks cost the ranch $18,444.
Concone said that while there are no guarantees tourists will spot a live jaguar, the relatively high probability of seeing one (24 percent on a given night tour, reflecting the high density in the area) is enough to keep them coming to the 140-square-kilometer ranch.
The study suggests tourism offers a substantial return positive return relative to the risks of maintaining a healthy wild jaguar population. The research didn't account for revenue generated by other tourism-related activities at the ranch, including food, lodging, and day-time tours.
The findings are significant because ranchers are a leading cause of jaguar mortality in the Pantanal and the Amazon. An economic argument may be the most effective way to convince ranchers not to kill the big cats.