ALBUQUERQUE, March 5 (UPI) -- Some 764, 207 acres of critical habitat will be set aside to protect endangered jaguars in the borderlands of New Mexico and Arizona. The move was announced yesterday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Over the last several years, only one jaguar has been spotted in the area, which consists of Pima, Santa Cruz and Cochise counties in Arizona, and Hidalgo County in New Mexico. But the newly protected mountain ranges used to feature more of the majestic predators, biologists say, and a healthy jaguar population has been documented across the border in Mexico.
For some time now, the Tuscon-based conservation group Center for Biological Diversity had been pushing the FWS to better protect jaguars that wander into the U.S., and finally sued the wildlife agency to move forward with previously stalled conservation plans. FWS afforded the jaguars (Panthera onca) their protection using federal authority granted under the Endangered Species Act.
“Welcome home, American jaguar,” Center spokesperson Michael Robinson said in a statement following FWS's announcement. "I’m hopeful that decades from now we’ll look back on this historic decision and see it as the first on-the-ground action that eventually led to the return of a thriving population of these beautiful big cats to this country.”
Most people associate jaguars with the wetlands and jungles of Central and South America, but significant numbers are known to roam the high desert, grasslands, forests, and mountain ranges of northwestern Mexico and southwestern United States.
[U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service]
[Center for Biological Diversity]