Whistling for the Jaguar

The un-redacted story of the jaguar, Macho B's snaring and death.

Guest Blog: Sergio Avila

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Macho B by j.brun

 

Ten Years After the Death of Jaguar, Macho B

By Sergio Avila, Sierra Club

Around 2004 I was a field volunteer in a jaguar project using wildlife cameras to find the big cat’s corridors from across the border. Those cameras photographed a jaguar thought to be “the last wild jaguar in the United States.” His name was Macho B. ‘Macho’ is Spanish for male; he was the second one found within a few months. He roamed Tohono O’odham lands in southern Arizona from 1996, when he was first photographed in the Baboquivari Mountains, until early 2009 when he was illegally captured and died as a result of a project led by Arizona Game and Fish Department. This March marks ten years since Macho B’s death.

Then and now, the biggest threat to northern jaguar recovery is the border wall and waiving of environmental laws. But conservationists also need to address people as part of the solution, not the problem. Border residents should be the land managers of places where jaguars live, such as national parks and other Tribal and public lands. Migrants could be the caretakers of jaguars in their places of origin; yet they are forced to leave their lands because of the current climatic conditions, becoming climate refugees. This could be the direct or indirect result of U.S. trade agreements, inaction to address climate change, or resource extraction companies destroying places where jaguars and people coexist.

Last summer the jaguar known as Yo’oko (jaguar in Yaqui) was illegally killed in Sonora. This happened at the same time as migrant and refugee families were separated at the border by Immigration and Customs Enforcement when they put people in cages and tents while the Sonoran Desert reached over 100°F. I couldn’t help seeing myself in them; families like mine, coming from places like where I grew up. I had very little to say about that one dead jaguar.

As a wildlife biologist looking for jaguar corridors across the border I’ve been harassed by Border Patrol agents on foot, vehicles, helicopters, and checkpoints, and even by the militias. These encounters were regularly led by racial profiling—wrongly assuming I was crossing the border undocumented or questioning “jaguar research” as a legitimate reason to be there. I never had any of these issues south of the border. Living in the U.S. as an immigrant scientist—working on both sides of the border—and seeing the abuse and destruction by border law enforcement agencies, I changed my focus from conservation science to social justice and equity in conservation.

Sierra Club is breaking the paradigm of separating social and environmental justice. We have joined Indigenous communities to defend the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, land of the Gwich‘in Nation and Bears Ears National Monument. We stand alongside an Inter-Tribal Coalition formed by the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Indian Tribe, and in solidarity with the Tohono O’odham, whose land is bisected by the U.S.-Mexico border. We believe that the long term recovery and conservation of charismatic species like jaguars require that we acknowledge and address inequities in conservation, the history of the land, and the diverse cultures that are part of the world’s biodiversity. We owe it to Native and Indigenous communities, to Macho B with whom they shared the land, and to the future generations of people and jaguars.

 

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Ten Years…The In-Between

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February 18, 2019 was the tenth anniversary of Macho B’s capture.

March 2, 2019 was the tenth anniversary of Macho B’s re-capture and subsequent death.

Almost ten years ago, I spoke up to let you, the public, know that jaguar conservation in Arizona was a sham. I shared what I knew at the time about our then nation’s only known jaguar’s capture at the hands of Arizona Game and Fish. First, that the jaguar, Macho B, had been targeted for capture by AZGFD and my employer, the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s knowledge. Second, foot hold snares were intentionally built in Macho B’s territory and activated when he had been documented in their vicinity. Third, the snare that caught Macho B had been baited with captive jaguar scat from the Phoenix Zoo, by me, at the direction of my supervisor. Lastly, that despite the agencies’ buzz words of “inadvertent” and “accidental” to describe Macho B’s capture they were lying. Rightfully, you, the public, were outraged. Letters to the editor and emails flew about Tucson and the world regarding the lies and cruelty of “Maim & Squish,” USFWS, and, BJDP. As the resulting federal investigation ensued over the next two years there were more comments of outrage and then silence.

Until…

2011 when lion hunter, Donnie Fenn, was running his hounds southeast of Tucson and they treed a jaguar, twice. The first time was legal but the second met the criteria for harassment under the Endangered Species Act. Fenn had failed to control his hounds after the first encounter and then chose to stand close by photographing the “aggressive” cat. Joyous letters and emails about the return of the rosetted myth to Arizona followed. Then silence.

Until…

The aforementioned jaguar is named “El Jefe” and starts making the rounds in front of cameras maintained by a University of Arizona jaguar study. Several principles on the project were involved in the capture and cover-up of Macho B’s snaring. When the project ended the public wasn’t told what it had gotten for its tax dollars. Then, in 2016, a video of El Jefe was released by a researcher on the project in an attempt to force the data into the public sphere. The world blew up with El Jefe’s image walking toward the camera with his head slung low. His eyes seemed to connect with the viewers’. He was breathtaking. The interest lasted about ten days.

Then silence.

Celebrating jaguars is joyous and hopeful. Condemning their deaths, like Macho B’s and more recently Yo’oko’s (poached in Sonora, 2018) is righteous and necessary. But, what about the in-between? Who is holding the entities encountering and “researching” the jaguar to a high standard?

The 2012-15 University of Arizona project produced a negligible amount of new data amongst its internal drama. In 2013 USFWS Supervisor Steve Spangle admitted to changing the biological opinion of his agency’s scientists that the pending Rosemont Mine could harm or kill a jaguar and thus, lifted a roadblock for the mine. The federal jaguar critical habitat designation of 2014 was incomplete—mountains were included but not the corridors for jaguars to get there.

Ten years on and Macho B’s story hasn’t initiated beneficial change for his species. So, I ask, nay beg, that you, the public, join the conversation. Speak up if you care about wildlife conservation being conducted in an ethical manner. Speak if you are concerned about preserving the biodiversity of our home. Please speak during the in-between. With yet another redundant script of fear and demands for the expansion of the border wall the chances for Arizona, let alone the U.S., to be awed by the presence of another jaguar may be coming to an end.

 

Second Chances

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Who said there weren’t second chances in life? A revised and updated version of my book, Cloak & Jaguar: Following a Cat from Desert to Courtroom is available again on Amazon in paperback and the Kindle format. Follow THIS link to order your copy today. Thanks in advance!

If you live in Tucson, Cloak & Jaguar can be found at Antigone Books on Fourth Avenue and at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.

Ponderings

With the rhetoric of the border wall increasing, I’ve been thinking a lot about how highlighting the jaguar to stall the wall might affect the animal. I pondered the thought in my latest post at Nomoreborderwall.

 

 

New Post at New Blog

View my latest post at the new blog HERE. Thanks for looking and sharing!

New Blog

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAI have started a new blog about the border. I got tired of fear and lies being used as the reasons to continue building the U.S. border wall. If you have a story to share about your own experiences and/or observations along the border please contact me at: whistlingforthejaguar@yahoo.com

JAG OFF! NO MORE BORDER WALLS

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Thank you

I wanted to thank everyone who has taken the time to read this blog and become interested in jaguar and/or wildlife conservation. My goal with this blog and my recently published book, Cloak & Jaguar was to provide all the information I have (via a FOIA request) regarding Macho B’s capture and death. What you, the reader, does with that information is, well, up to you. I encourage anyone who is interested in wildlife conservation to become a responsible advocate for the cause. If you choose to volunteer for or donate funds to a group or even hire a guide for a photographic tour of a national park please vet them. It takes a few moments but Google makes it easy. And not just the group as an entity but also the individuals doing research or work on their behalf.

As this blog comes to a close for more information about jaguar conservation please visit Conservation CATalyst, The Jaguar and its Allies, Southwest Jags, Northern Jaguar Project, and Panthera.

A reminder for anyone with information about wildlife and/or wildland crime, WildLeaks is there to help and can be contacted anonymously.

I would also like to thank everyone that has reached out to me over the years and more recently in regard to my book. I enjoy hearing from you and if anyone else wants to get in touch my contact is: cloakandjaguar@yahoo.com

Finally, if anyone has a moment in their busy lives a review of my book on Amazon would be appreciated. It’s easy; just login to your Amazon account and go to the Cloak & Jaguar product page here and click on the Write a Review button. Also, anyone interested in buying a copy of Cloak & Jaguar the paperback is now on sale for $10.95 and the ebook for $5.99.

Many thanks!

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Cloak & Jaguar Book Reviews

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Check out this  book review of Cloak and Jaguar. Then take some time to explore the rest of Josh’s comprehensive blog (and labor of love) about jaguars and big cats.

And this review from John Yunker of Ashland Creek Press and EcoLit Books.

From CounterPunch and also The Society of Environmental Journalists.

Giveaway Tuesday

 

The Goodreads giveaway has begun. Sign up and enter for a chance to win a signed copy of Cloak & Jaguar. Happy Holidays!

 

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