Playing detective in the jungle
Caught on camera
The second stratagem relies on camera traps. These traps are battery operated, like normal cameras, but are set off automatically, so any animal triggering the sensors will be photographed.
For the purpose of the study, the forest has been divided into four different types of areas. One of the zones where the cameras will be placed this year for example is near cattle farms. The idea is to investigate if proximity to livestock affects population density - either positively because the cats feed off the cattle, or negatively because the farmers hunt them.
In Latin America, farmers are not compensated if their cattle is in any way harmed by wild animals. In the province of Misiones, a law that would reduce taxes for aggrieved farmers is currently under discussion. This would presumably help reduce illegal hunting within the forest, although no study on the matter has yet been carried out.
All data pertaining to the jaguars is brought back to the office for subsequent laboratory analysis. DNA fingerprinting of fecal material and imprint crosschecks are used to define how many individual jaguars have been tracked.