Our History

JAGUAR FOUNDATION

In 1973, studies about the status of vulnerability of jaguars indicated that this was an endangered species in the American continent. In Costa Rica, their wild populations have been drastically reduced in the past decades due to the alteration of their habitat and indiscriminate hunting.

The high level of vulnerability of the wild populations of the jaguar (Panthera onca) spurred the interest of a group of entrepreneurs, who joined their efforts to create the Jaguar Protection Program Trust, which started to operate on December 20, 2007. The initiative received economic and logistic support from BAC San Jose, S.A., CRT Tour Operator & Destination Management Services and Agrosuperior S.A. The resources contributed by these companies were managed by the BAC San Jose Trust Department. Other service provider companies also joined the cause and contributed in kind for the purpose of accomplishing this pioneering work.

The Jaguar Protection Program was created to preserve and conserve jaguars through supporting the scientific efforts of the University of Costa Rica and the Universidad Nacional in their research work and protection of jaguars in Costa Rica. One of the main features that make this program special is the fact that it is based on a private sector initiative that promotes the creation of strategic alliances for supporting the research made by the state universities in matters of conservation.

Due to the progress of the Program and to the need for increasing financing, the Jaguar Foundation was constituted in October 2010. Their efforts were geared towards promoting the ongoing interdisciplinary research by means of private fund raising for supporting the scientific activities developed by the National Conservation Areas System (SINAC).

Mission

To preserve the Jaguar as the main indicator of the health of our forests.

Vision

To coordinate the efforts of all sectors of society for safeguarding the jaguar populations and assuring their conservation.

OBJECTIVES OF THE JAGUAR FOUNDATION


1) To provide logistic and economic resources for the development of an academic association between Universidad Nacional (UNA) and the University of Costa Rica (UCR), for the common objective of protecting, researching and monitoring jaguar populations and their prey in their natural habitat

2) To determine the genetic variability of jaguar populations, both wild and in captivity, throughout the entire national territory, through the identification of molecular markers from samples of feces, blood and other tissues. Such data will provide better understanding about the jaguar populations and their prey. presas.

3) To raise awareness among the neighboring communities surrounding the National Conservation Areas System (SINAC) of Costa Rica, in order to protect jaguar populations and their prey as key indicators of the health of their respective ecosystems. To actively educate communities about the interdependency of jaguars with their prey and their habitat.

4) To promote environmental education programs in order to prevent Man-Jaguar-Cattle conflicts and strengthen buffer zones surrounding the conservation areas, as well as to classify high-risk conflict zones. Our goal is to work with cattle raisers to reduce the vengeful persecution of jaguars.

5) The scope of the Wildlife Conservation Act needs to be modified (N° 7317), chapter IV, article 22: Article 22.- Exotic or native wildlife that may cause damage in any ecosystem or to agriculture, livestock and public health, may be captured, controlled, profited from, eliminated or relocated, pursuant to the provisions established in the bylaws of the present Act, upon carrying out the corresponding previous technical-scientific studies and cost-benefit economic appraisals. However, in case of imminent danger to the integrity of persons by a wild specimen, A PERSON MAY, IN SELF-DEFENSE, PROCEED TO CAPTURE, CONTROL OR, AS LAST RESOURCE, ELIMINATE THE THREATENING SPECIMEN without such action entailing any penalty whatsoever.

Exempt from this, and concerning sanitary matters, are the National Animal Health Service and the Phytosanitary Service of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cattle Industry and the Ministry of Health. The sacrifice of the organism shall be left as last resource, and methods that best prevent suffering should be used. (As amended by article 1 of Act No. 9106, December 20, 2012).

SCOPE


THE JAGUAR FOUNDATION DEVOTES THEIR EFFORTS TO PROVIDE THE BEST POSSIBLE SUPPORT TO THE RESEARCH WORK DEVELOPED BY THE JAGUAR PROGRAM OF UNIVERSIDAD NACIONAL AND THE GENETICS PROGRAM OF THE UNIVERSITY OF COSTA RICA.

Universidad Nacional (UNA). The Jaguar Program is being developed at the International Institute of Wildlife Conservation and Management - UNA, under the direction of Dr. Eduardo Carrillo, one of the main authorities at international level in the research of wild populations of such feline. Dr. Carrillo coordinates visits to the different conservation areas and national parks in order to obtain samples of wild populations and their prey, which provide the hair and excretion samples necessary for genetic analysis. Some of the outcomes of our field work are the following:
  1. 1) Importance of the jaguar as indicator of a healthy forest by being at the top of their ecological pyramid
  2. 2) Scientific efforts for generating valid information in order to know the ecosystems in all study areas.
  3. 3) Importance of monitoring the main food source of the species, mainly peccaries and collar peccaries.
  4. 4) The collected data have generated the publication of 22 scientific articles in important international journals.
  5. 5) Pilot project at the Corcovado National Park since 2003.
  6. 6) Creation of population and cattle-attack maps in the surrounding buffer zones with parks and conservation areas.
  7. 7) Possibility of implementing alternative prevention solutions geared towards favoring the joint efforts of all stakeholders by promoting win-win results, such as, for instance, sustainable cattle-raising certificates.
University of Costa Rica (UCR). The Genetics Program of the UCR School of Biology is directed by Dr. Gustavo Gutiérrez Espeleta, current dean of the School of Biology. The Genetics Program analyzes samples provided from specimens both wild and in captivity, for the purpose of determining the genetic variability and physiological health of the populations at national level. The following are some preliminary conclusions reached to the present:
  1. 1) A total of 1019 samples have been analyzed, of which the results of 345 samples are still pending.
  2. 2) 65 samples corresponding to jaguars have been identified.
  3. 3) Sample distribution is as follows: 49% of wild origin, 23% in captivity and 28% from exhibits or museums.
  4. 4) Recently, the minimum required 50-sample goal was reached for the purpose of having a greater index of representation that allows for supporting work conclusions.
  5. 5) There has been access to fur and hair samples from museums and private collections in the country for increasing the number of samples.
  6. 6) The collection of additional samples is being coordinated with UNA staff and other institutions in zones pending exploration, such as Guanacaste, Barra del Colorado, Tortuguero, Baja Talamanca and Parque La Amistad.
  7. 7) According to sample analyses obtained, it was observed that the genetic variability of jaguars in Costa Rica is moderate with respect to other jaguar distribution populations.
Expected short-term results:
  1. 1) Upon completing the analysis of the pending samples, a detailed study of the differentiation of the populations in Costa Rica will be carried out.
  2. 2) 2) A strong genetic differentiation could represent a disadvantage to the population, given that such population would have little probability for long-term survival, either due to population isolation, to the onset of any disease or to climatic phenomena that may affect the immune levels of the species.

OUR TEAM

Dr. Eduardo Carrillo

Jaguar Program, Universidad Nacional. Director of the International Instituto for the Conservation and Management of Wildlife (ICOMVIS) Universidad Nacional.

Dr. Gustavo Gutiérrez

Dean of the School of Biology, Genetics Program, UCR.

Dr. Luis Diego Alfaro

Jaguar Program Coordinator - UNA.

Sra. Sofía Soto Fournier, M.Sc.

Genetics Program Assistant, School of Biology - UCR.

Sra. Michelle Monge

Jaguar Program Assistant.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Sr. Jaime Gurdián

President.

Sr. Miguel Rodríguez

Ministry of Energy and the Environment – MINAE - Representative.

Dr. Eduardo Carrillo

Secretary.
Jaguar Program, Universidad Nacional. Director of the International Instituto for the Conservation and Management of Wildlife (ICOMVIS) Universidad Nacional.

Sr. Edgar Quirós

Representative of the Municipality of Escazú.

Sr. Gustavo Gutiérrez Espeleta

Treaser.
Dean of the School of Biology, Genetics Program, UCR.

ADMINISTRATION

Sra. Natalia López

Executive Director.

Sr. Aarón Villalobos

Financial Director.

Comentarios de nuestro equipo

Jaime Gurdián Moreno

PRESIDENT OF THE FOUNDATION.

Ever since my childhood, the exuberance of our tropical forests, with their rich flora and fauna, awakened in me the interest in knowing their depth and in seeking to understand the interaction of their members. I devoted long hours observing, studying and listening to our peasants talk about their appreciations and life experiences concerning the “mountain” (wilderness), as we Costa Ricans usually call our privileged natural environment.

Ever since my childhood, the exuberance of our tropical forests, with their rich flora and fauna, awakened in me the interest in knowing their depth and in seeking to understand the interaction of their members. I devoted long hours observing, studying and listening to our peasants talk about their appreciations and life experiences concerning the “mountain” (wilderness), as we Costa Ricans usually call our privileged natural environment.

Thanks to my work experience and contact with agricultural, forestry and business activities, I have embraced the commitment to support the efforts represented by the challenge faced and developed by the national scientific academy in conjunction with the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) of our country. The Jaguar Foundation joins this important endeavor of conservation and educating the population about the need to leave a healthy environment to the future generations.

Costa Rica faces the world today as a leading country, among other important nations, with comparatively high percentages of its territory devoted to conservation, exploiting its image with relative success and attracting communities of scientists and ecotourists annually to study and enjoy our privileged nature.

The jaguar, a magnificent neo-tropical feline, occupies the summit of the food chain. As a key indicator, its presence reveals the existence of a comprehensive balance in the ecosystem of our forests.

Aware of the pressing need of contributing to their protection, my colleagues in this endeavor and me set out to establish the Jaguar Foundation, a multi-professional organization that represents an alliance between the private sector and the Costa Rican scientific academy.

Our Foundation currently coordinates and channels logistic and financial resources towards specific research and extension work programs, which are carried out by both universities through the School of Biology of the University of Costa Rica, in the genetic study of wild feline populations, and the International Institute for Wildlife Conservation and Management (ICOMVIS) of the Universidad Nacional, in their work for the management and analysis of the interaction and behavior of jaguars with their prey and environment. Such results are disclosed both nationally and internationally.

The Jaguar Foundation calls upon the business owners and the population in general to contribute responsibly to this crusade, since its purpose is to promote and unify efforts for safeguarding the wellbeing of Costa Rica through their contributions.

Eduardo Carrillo, PhD

DIRECTOR OF THE INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR WILDLIFE CONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT, UNIVERSIDAD NACIONAL, HEREDIA, COSTA RICA.

My inclination for working with wildlife started when I was five or six years old, when I began watching “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” in black-and-white television at a friend’s house. Even though I was still very little, back then I was hypnotized by whatever Cousteau, the oceanographer, did, and I used to tell my mother: “Mom, I want to grow a beard and be a scientist when I’m older!” So life provided me with opportunities, and I started visiting the newly created National Parks of Costa Rica while being very young. I had the chance to get my Bachelor’s and Master’s degree at the Universidad Nacional, first as a Forestry Engineer and then becoming specialized as Wildlife Manager. Later on, the United States government awarded me a Fulbright scholarship, which allowed me to get my Doctorate’s degree in Wildlife Management at the University of Massachusetts.

My interest in working with jaguars began in 1990, when I had the chance to see my first jaguar at the Corcovado National Park. That day we were able to see a female jaguar with her cub at Sirena beach, at 11 am. After such experience, I started searching for information about these animals, and found out that they had not been well studied, and that I could contribute something to their conservation. Consequently, I developed a research project about jaguars and their prey.

Thus the first project about jaguars and peccaries in Costa Rica was born, with my participation and that of my colleague, Joel Sáenz. However, since we were not well-known researchers, nobody wanted to give us the funds to start the project, although our passion for work compelled us to use part of our personal savings for buying telemetry equipment to start tagging animals in the field. Three months later, we had captured three peccaries and a jaguar. Once we proved that we could develop the project, we received support from organizations such as the Wildlife Conservation Society and National Geographic, so that we could continue to develop the project, which later on became the current Universidad Nacional research program.

Many people ask why is it important to study jaguars. The answer is simple: it is not because it is a beautiful, large or sexy animal. It is because the jaguar is a good indicator of the health of the forest. A forest with jaguars is a healthy forest. Nevertheless, in order to be able to use the jaguar as an indicator, it was and it is necessary to generate biological information about the species and their relationship with other species such as peccaries and sea turtles. At the end, the more we know about the ecology of jaguars and their prey, the more successful we will be in the conservation of the natural resources that guarantee us, humans, better quality of life.

In the past, Costa Rica was subject to a lot of international aid in order to establish protected areas, and, to a lesser degree, to develop field research. However, currently, it is very difficult to obtain funds for developing research in this field. Our University provides us with the basics: researchers’ fees, vehicles and fuel. Nevertheless, we should get the funds for the purchase of equipment in general and field expenses. I think that we, Costa Ricans, should be consistent with what we preach: a green Costa Rica! For such end, we need to invest in conservation and research, and the Jaguar Foundation offers a serious alternative to those persons or companies willing to contribute to the conservation and management of natural resources in our country. I thank you in advance for your collaboration!

Dr. Gustavo Gutiérrez Espeleta

DIRECTOR OF THE SCHOOL OF BIOLOGY – UNIVERSITY OF COSTA RICA

My interest in studying wildlife became clear in 1994, after having participated in different human genetics projects. Back then, I wanted to apply my knowledge of molecular genetics to the four species of non-human primates in our country, taking into account that such species were worse off in terms of abundance and distribution. Shortly after starting the study of primates, I became interested in similar studies of the six feline species in the country, particularly jaguars. After considering the difficulties for obtaining a biological sample of these animals, I contemplated the need to maximize this resource and carry out not only molecular genetics studies, but also determine the presence of infectious agents (bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi) that could be contributing to the reduction of the populations.

With this scope in mind, a research project was born at the School of Biology of the University of Costa Rica. I should emphasize that this is a pioneering study in Costa Rica as well as at regional level.

Since the jaguar is a species that is highly complex to sample, we started by analyzing individuals in captivity. Through FundaZoo we obtained permission to take samples from jaguars at the Simon Bolivar Zoo and the Santa Ana Conservation Center. Upon visiting the latter in Santa Ana, a journalist from La Nacion was also there and she interviewed us. Among many things, I mentioned that we did not have a budget for developing this study, and that we were taking the pertinent steps for getting it. That was how Jaime Gurdian came to know the project, and called me at the UCR in order to show his interest in collaborating with our research.

Developing studies about the population genetics of jaguars is important for determining the levels of genetic variability and their structure. One way or the other, we can determine the effects caused by the fragmentation of their habitat and their population reduction due to current threats. This type of information is the preliminary step for determining the best protection measures in the conservation units.

In order to guarantee the long-term survival of felines in Costa Rica, conservation strategies that promote maintaining high levels of gene flow between the different geographical areas are necessary. Therefore, population genetic studies can establish the degree of connectivity and isolation of the different populations in the country.

This project has been funded thanks to different strategic alliances. However, there is still much work to be done. For instance, sampling has to be substantially improved and the analysis of infectious agents should continue.

The protection of this species in the ecosystems of our country is a shared and unavoidable task. By protecting jaguars, many other species will also benefit from it.

SECTIONS OF INTEREST

DID YOU KNOW THAT..?

Jaguars

Are the only big felines that use water as a means of transportation for exploring their territory, in addition to being the only species of the panthera genus that likes water, besides the Asian tiger. Jaguars are the best swimmers among the big felines.

OUR CONTRIBUTORS.

We at the Jaguar Foundation wish to express our deepest thanks to the contributors, who, like us, have believed in the importance of supporting the efforts of the state Universities in the conservation and preservation of the jaguar.