First Mating of a Wild and Captive Jaguar Has Produced Two Cubs

Feb 9, 2021 | Argentina, Rewilding

The cubs will be raised by their captive mother in a secure enclosure without human contact in El Impenetrable National Park until they can be released into the wild. This novel approach brings new hope to recover this highly endangered species in the Argentine Chaco.

EL IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK, CHACO, ARG— The Province of Chaco, Argentina’s National Parks Administration and Rewilding Argentina have confirmed that Tania, a captive jaguar in the breeding program of Rewilding Argentina, has given birth to two cubs approximately three months after breeding with Qaramta, the sole wild jaguar in Impenetrable National Park. This is the first mating attempt between a wild and captive jaguar anywhere in the world.

In the Argentine Chaco, the situation for this top predator is critical. Poaching and deforestation have put America’s biggest cat in imminent danger of extinction. There are now fewer than 20 individual specimens left roaming the millions of hectares of this immense territory, yet, the species remains a powerful symbol of the region, according to Jorge Capitanich, the governor of Chaco Province, who announced the news.

The jaguar was believed to have gone extinct in El Impenetrable, a national park created in 2014 with help from Tompkins Conservation. Yet, the appearance of footprints on the muddy shores of the Bermejo River in September, 2019 kindled unexpected hope. Camera traps confirmed a young male roaming the area. He was fitted with a satellite collar to track his movements and named Qaramta, “the one who it cannot be destroyed, ” in the local Qom language. Today he is four years old and weighs 113.6 kilos. To keep him from roaming too far from the safety of the national park, Rewilding Argentina brought a captive female whose scent would anchor his movements until an adequate breeding pen could be constructed and authorization for mating was given by the local and national authorities.

“As we head into the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, the time has come to take bold actions to save species, it’s essential to restoring ecosystems and ensuring planetary health for all,” says Kristine Tompkins, president of Tompkins Conservation and UN Patron of Protected Areas. “These jaguar cubs show that species by species, we can change the trajectory of mass extinctions.”

As a young male roaming a huge territory in search of a mate, Qaramta is much like the solitary jaguar specimens recorded in the Argentine Chaco and other areas where the species is on the verge of extinction, such as Arizona and New Mexico in the Southwestern US.  Tania, a captive breeder from Rewilding Argentina’s Jaguar Reintroduction Center in the Ibera wetlands of Argentina, had already successfully raised two cubs in that program; they are now slated for release in the wetlands. Previously a zoo specimen, her wild great-grandparents came from the Chaco, captured in 1989 as cubs orphaned by poachers.

Camera trap records indicate that Tania gave birth to two healthy cubs early on January 30th. They will be raised in large enclosures until they can be released when they reach maturity in two or three years. In the meantime, efforts will focus on protecting more of the territory around the Bermejo River as a safe haven for the species. Eradicating poaching and developing ecotourism will also be key. “We need to ensure an economy based on nature tourism, so that these cubs may roam freely and safely,” says Sofía Heinonen, executive director of Rewilding Argentina. “So that the jaguars and the people of El Impenetrable can coexist and prosper.”

Rewilding Argentina receives support from DOB Ecology to restore the Gran Chaco, and from its strategic partner Tompkins Conservation, a leader in rewilding and park creation in the Southern Cone.

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