Overlooked jaguar guardians: Indigenous territories and range-wide conservation of a cultural icon

Ambio. 2022 Dec;51(12):2532-2543. doi: 10.1007/s13280-022-01754-8. Epub 2022 Jun 20.


Indigenous territories (ITs) are an integral component of global conservation strategies. We evaluate the range-wide overlap of ITs and the distribution of the jaguar (Panthera onca), a Neotropical apex predator with considerable cultural significance among Indigenous Peoples. We quantified overlap between protected areas (PAs) and ITs among: (1) jaguar range, (2) the species' core habitats, known as Jaguar Conservation Units (JCUs), and (3) corridors connecting JCUs. We further evaluated deforestation rates between 2000 and 2020 among protected, unprotected, and indigenous portions of JCUs and corridors and compared jaguar density estimates among these land tenures. Our results indicate that ITs overlap 27.7% of jaguar range. South American JCUs and corridors, which comprise ~ 94% of jaguar distribution, experienced significantly less deforestation where ITs intersected PAs. We documented an unbalanced ratio of jaguar density estimates between indigenous and non-indigenous areas, highlighting the need for more representative sampling. Collaborative approaches for jaguar conservation, informed and guided by indigenous knowledge, can support more inclusive and effective monitoring that reduces dependence on external support.

Keywords: Corridors; Deforestation; Indigenous territories; Jaguars; Protected areas.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / methods
  • Ecosystem
  • Panthera*