Ten Years…The In-Between
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.
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.
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.
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.