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Tracking to save the jaguar Guatopo National Park The search begins where a dirt road ends, in a forest festooned with vines and filled with the chatter of trilling birds. This is the realm of jaguars, and a young biologist has made it her mission to find them. Emiliana Isasi Catala wades through a creek and moves nimbly through the foliage, scanning the dark earth covered with fallen leaves for the distinctive round toes of jaguar tracks and the faint trails of smaller animals they prey on: Agoutis, tapirs, peccaries and armadillos. "A track. It looks like jaguar," she exclaimed, while climbing a steep slope. Squatting to examine the swipe of bare earth, she concludes a big cat was moving downhill and slipped a little. She speaks into her audio recorder: "Signs of a feline. She also sees a larger purpose in her research: Helping the jaguars survive through the protection of a network of wildlife reserves and corridors across Latin America. Jaguars are the largest land predators in the Americas. They once roamed widely from the south western US to Argentina, but have lost more than 40% of their natural territory and have disappeared from Uruguay, El Salvador and many other areas. Heavy hunting for their spotted coats devastated their numbers in the 1960s and early ugg offers 1970s until the pelt trade was largely halted. Today jaguars are listed as a "near threatened" species. They are vulnerable due to expanding farmland and roads that are carving away at their habitat, and conflicts with ranchers who view them as cattle killers and shoot them on sight or poison them. No one has any good estimates of how many jaguars are left in the wild, and that is why work like Isasi Catala s is important. In Guatopo National Park, she often comes upon the stumps of trees felled by illegal loggers and the camps of poachers who hunt animals that are prey for jaguars. She saw National Guard troops arrest three hunters carrying shotguns, and suspects hunters or loggers were to blame for stealing one of her cameras. In spite of the problems, she is encouraged that a healthy number of jaguars remains in the park, and if this "umbrella species" at the top of the food chain is alive and well, it is a good sign the rest of the ecosystem is intact. "It is a very important area for jaguar conservation," he said. One day in July, Isasi Catala is hiking to the top of a ridge to check an infrared camera set up to capture video and photographs of any passing jaguar. She plots a course using a GPS she wears around her neck, and three park rangers swing machetes to clear a path. Checking the camera that she strapped to a tree one month earlier, she finds it recorded only a small number of videos she later sees they were images of tapirs and decides ugg clogs to move the camera to another tree nearby where the ground is covered with tracks of deer and armadillos. She aims the camera using a red laser pointer and activates it. The motion sensor will trigger filming whenever anything passes, day or night. Her study is the focus of her doctoral thesis at Simon Bolivar University. She has done her research on a shoestring budget, gathering donated cameras and buying others with her own money. She relies on her father to drive her research volunteers in an old, battered Range Rover, and works late nights writing up results and browsing her video clips, rarely finding a jaguar. Browsing through the black and white videos on her laptop, she saw a spotted neck and back glide across the bottom of the frame, and she shouted with joy. Each jaguar s pattern of spots is unique, identifiable like a fingerprint. The same male jaguar later reappeared in another video curiously sniffing the camera and then peering directly into the lens. "They re magical, you know," she said. "When you see a jaguar, even if it s in a photo, it gives you a sense of greatness. That s when you say, nature definitely is incredible." She named that first animal "Tobe", which means jaguar in the Warao Indian language. Three others that appeared later Maro, Kaikuse and Paneme were named in other indigenous languages. Cat researchers sometimes use perfume to attract passing felines. Isasi Catala uses Perfumes Factory kids ugg boots uk "Chanel". She douses a piece of cotton, places it in a jar with holes punched in the lid, and tapes it to a tree. The scent seems to make some cats pause. But when the last of the four jaguars, Paneme, appeared in a fog like haze, apparently after a rainstorm, she reared up to sniff the perfume and retreated, baring her teeth. Much of the frenzy that followed was not captured on camera. The jaguar attacked the perfume jar and a video camera, which was left hanging at an odd angle with claw marks on the duct tape. The jaguar also destroyed an older still photo camera, pulling it apart and exposing the film.

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