Jaguars are listed on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species as near threatened, with a decreasing population. Increasing deforestation to clear space for human activities like cattle ranching has left jaguars with lost or fragmented habitats and isolated populations, making it difficult for them to breed. A smaller range means the cats have less access to prey, leaving them no choice but to turn to livestock to survive. And when they do, ranchers often look for any means available to retaliate.
Renato Raizer was with Reprocon when the group first put the tracking collar on Sandro. He was also with them when they found the jaguar’s body. A rancher who has been running the family cattle farm alongside his father for the last 12 years, he says he would never kill a jaguar, even though he loses roughly 50 animals to them every year. (Claw marks on a cow’s neck and bite marks straight through the skull are tell-tale signs of a jaguar attack.)
“There isn’t much we can do,” he says. “If you have a small farm, maybe you could build an enclosure, keep your cattle in for the night. But what do you do if you have a thousand, 2,000, 15,000, 80,000 heads of cattle? You just take the loss. It might be my property, but it’s their home too.”
Not everyone thinks that way. Before it was filled with cattle, the native pastureland where Sandro and the other animals were found was a tourist hot spot. People from around the world flocked there, hoping to catch a glimpse of a jaguar in the wild. And they usually did. Its location on the edge of the Miranda River meant it attracted more jaguars than most properties in the region.
Gian Peralta, a wildlife tour guide, rented the ranch from 2012 to 2019, before it was purchased by its current owner. When he was there, business was good, he says. Every day he’d see two or three jaguars. Sometimes he’d draw them out using an instrument that mimics the sounds of jaguars looking for a mate. Other times he wouldn’t need it. They’d be easily spotted, resting on the riverbank.
He first noticed something was off last year.
“When I was going along the dirt road where the jaguars always cross, I wasn’t seeing their paw prints anymore,” Peralta says.
Now, as he continues to work nearby, still using the Miranda River as a means for transportation, Peralta says he’s lucky if he sees one jaguar a day. He often goes several without seeing any.