Contrary to what some people may think about the relationship between ranchers and jaguars in Central and South America, some of Panthera’s most trusted partners in conservation are cattle ranchers. This is particularly the case in Costa Rica where Panthera is working to protect the jaguar by partnering with local ranchers to mitigate human-jaguar conflicts. Our team’s recent work with Marito Umaña, a local dairy farmer, to resolve a calf predation case is a prime example of the collaborative conservation work Panthera is carrying out with local communities in Costa Rica.
As a traditional dairy farmer, Marito (meaning small Mario) gets up very early each morning to milk his cows, and does this again in the afternoon before he travels the 4-5 km home on foot and by motorcycle. Recently, Marito shared with me that on a typical afternoon, as he was walking to his pasture to milk his cows, he noticed that the birds which normally sing so loud were uncharacteristically quiet. Marito explained that at that moment, he remembered that he had left his three young Jersey calves tied up in the pasture to be sure they wouldn’t wander away and get lost.
He then adjusted the milk tank on his shoulder and began to walk a bit faster; his dog, always attentive, did the same, but soon stopped and began to bark. As he walked through the pasture, Marito sadly came upon his three calves, then deceased, (photos left and below).
Unfortunately, it is often assumed by local communities that jaguars are responsible for attacks on ranchers’ livestock, like this one. However, after Marito contacted Panthera to investigate the scene the next morning, our team concluded that the three calves had been attacked by a cougar, or puma, rather than a jaguar.