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Following the Jaguar’s footprints

The community monitoring system provides records of jaguars in forest management areas in indigenous communities of the Bolivian Chiquitania.

"To place a camera trap, it is required to go through the forest. Not through the trails, or the roads. It is about following the tracks of the jaguar, looking for water sources or resting places so that the images capture the formidability of this species and also of those others with whom it lives."

The team leaves early in the morning to make the most of daylight. Between the technical staff of WWF Bolivia and the members of the community, they prepare the equipment and the maps to move within the Management Plan of the Palmarito de la Frontera community, in the Monte Verde Indigenous Territory and place the trap cameras that will allow knowing the jaguar population in this territory (or tiger, as the species is commonly known by local actors), as well as the diversity of its potential prey.

Photo. Installation of camera traps in the Madrecita Community

There is expectation in the community. After having participated in the workshop in which they not only learned about camera traps but were also trained in the use of this technological tool and were informed about the importance of collecting this information in their territory, the community became active participants in the project. The community members supported the placement of the cameras, and the collection of the images, this way, the community became the guardian of the installed monitoring system. After approximately 90 days of operation of the trap cameras, the technical team finally collects the material and prepares to review the videos and analyze the information.

Photo. Training workshop on camera traps in the Palmarito de la Frontera Community

The “Jaguar Community Conservation” project has been implemented since 2022 in 3 Monte Verde Indigenous Territory communities. It seeks to know the population status of the jaguar and its prey in the territory and identify the conflicts between the human being and the feline to promote actions that strengthen coexistence. In the same way, it strengthens governance processes for participation and decision-making and contributes to the sustainable management of forests considering that, if these are not protected, both the jaguar habitat and the livelihoods of the communities would be at risk.

Within the framework of the first component of the project, which seeks a harmonious coexistence between humans and the jaguar, information is collected to identify the presence of the species in the forest management areas of the communities with which the project works. These are places where families make sustainable use of timber resources. For this, the jaguar community monitoring system was implemented, which has the particularity of being one of the first feline monitoring systems that have been implemented together with indigenous communities in the Chiquitano landscape.

Photo. Training workshop on camera traps in the Palmarito de la Frontera Community

This first experience was carried out with the Palmarito de la Frontera community, one of the few that has forest certification because of the good management it carries out within its forests. Community members have been trained in programming, installing, using camera traps, and monitoring jaguars and their prey. Community members, familiar with their forest management area, together with WWF Bolivia technicians, identified suitable sites for the installation of pairs of camera traps (stations). 68 cameras (34 stations) were installed in an extension of 10,000 hectares, with the participation of about 12 members of this indigenous community.

Photo. Installation of camera traps in the Palmarito de la Frontera community

The conservation of the jaguar is of vital importance due to its role as an “umbrella species”. This means that their presence contributes to the conservation of the entire ecosystem and guarantees the survival of numerous species that depend on their habitat. In this context, the focus of the project proposes to establish a jaguar population baseline in the territory. For this purpose, community empowerment based on forest management offers a favorable scenario for the protection of the species and the preservation of its habitat.

The results are encouraging, the list of identified species is extended, finding among them the Anta (Tapirus terrestris), the taitetú (Pecari tajacu), the jochi (Dasyprocta variegata), the urina (Mazama gouazoubira), the guaso (Mazama americana), the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), the jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi) and of course the jaguar (Panthera onca), which, according to preliminary results, presents an estimated density that coincides with what is expected for forests in the Chiquitano region in good condition of conservation, which may be related to the good management that Palmarito de la Frontera does of its forests.

This information was celebrated by the community. It should be noted that, even though the community members live near the forests and can hear the "song" (roar) of the jaguar a few meters away, not all of them have had the experience of seeing it in person. Therefore, the reactions of each one when seeing the images or videos of the trap cameras are unforgettable moments. Knowing and recognizing the specimens that live in their territory was a unique experience.


Lorena Ribero, 34, has lived in the Palmarito de la Frontera community since she was 8 years old. “WWF has taught us to appreciate the tiger (jaguar), to see it in another way. The animal does not attack people, it is not harmful and there is no reason to kill it. Seeing it in the video allows me to appreciate it and be part of this project. I feel excited. Although sometimes one feels afraid, when I see it in the images I feel that it is necessary to take care of it, this species, and all the animals in the forest” she mentions after seeing the images of the camera traps for the first time.

Photo. Lorena Ribera, member of the Palmarito de la Frontera Community

Jaime Oronó is a teacher at the community school. “In the community, there was not this orientation, this guide to identify the species and learn more about them. Only people who went hunting had that contact with the animals in the area. Curiosity was generated in the community, especially in young people to know and observe the species that exist within our territory. Thanks to the cameras that were installed we managed to meet them. The students did not know them, but now they have been able to see them in the communities. Now we all know that we must live with biodiversity to preserve the species that exist. We don't know if 20 years from now, endangered species will still be seen. So, it is important that now children and young people can get to know them and value them”, adds the professor.

Fotografía. Jaime Oronó, member of the Palmarito de la Frontera Community

As a result of this experience, the community, in total consensus, decided to name the jaguars identified in their territory, recognizing them, and giving them the names of men or women who have played an important role in the history of Palmarito de la Frontera. Based on this, the community has committed to protecting the jaguar and ensuring that it can remain in this territory and is currently in the process of adopting and recognizing the jaguar as its emblematic animal through a community declaration so that the feline is the flag for the conservation of forests in the territory.

The project will continue working on raising awareness and reducing conflict. “In the framework of the project, we have carried out a study to identify the conflict. Mainly during the dry season, families have reported that the Jaguar approaches the pastures and attacks the cattle. The families in retaliation and to prevent this from happening again hunt the jaguar. It is not a common or frequent problem, but it exists. Given this, WWF will implement, together with the community, anti-predation measures to reduce this conflict and improve the coexistence between humans and the species”, says Marco Aurelio Pinto, WWF technician. "Another important step is to achieve a declaration at the municipal level of jaguar conservation, which requires the support of all the communities," adds Marco Aurelio.

Photo. Students from the Palmarito de la Frontera Community