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Habitat use, activity patterns and human interactions with jaguars Panthera onca in southern Belize

  • Michael T. Dobbins (a1), Michael K. Steinberg (a2), Eben N. Broadbent (a3) and Sadie J. Ryan (a1)

Parts of southern Belize are designated as a corridor for the jaguar Panthera onca but the Maya region remains understudied. We therefore studied jaguar habitat use, activity patterns, and interactions with people in Blue Creek, a Maya village in a human-dominated tropical landscape in southern Belize. We used camera traps to detect jaguar presence, and interviews to assess local people's attitudes to and perceptions of jaguars. We recorded 28 independent photographic events during 1,200 camera-trap nights (i.e. a relative abundance index of 2.3 jaguars per 100 trap days). Seven individual jaguars were identified. Jaguars preferred lowland broad-leaf tropical forest and were detected more often during daylight, in contrast to findings from previous studies. Attitudes towards jaguars were largely positive: 88% of respondents (n = 48) did not fear jaguars living around the village, and 81% understood the positive effect that jaguars have on the ecosystem. Although 92% of respondents reported seeing a jaguar within the previous 2 years, attacks on livestock in the village were rare, with only two occurrences in the previous 3 years. Ecotourism has grown rapidly in Belize in recent years, and Blue Creek is home to several natural tourist attractions and an eco-lodge that brings tourists, school groups, and researchers to the village. Ecotourism has provided an economic incentive for village investment in conservation, and 94% of respondents stated that preservation of wildlife, including jaguars, was beneficial to their well-being.

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