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: Mexico Releases Cattle-Killing Jaguar into the Jungle



From: Ioan Grillo, Associated Press
Published December 19, 2005 12:00 AM

Mexico Releases Cattle-Killing Jaguar into the Jungle

MEXICO CITY — A jaguar captured in 2004 after killing nearly 60 cows and sheep ran to freedom in the jungles of southern Mexico on Saturday.


Mexico's federal environmental protection agency cut loose the 1.3-meter (4.3-feet) long male named "Jaguar of Light" in a ceremony near the remote village of Asuncion Lachixila in the southern state of Oaxaca.


The jaguar wore a special collar that will allow scientists and police to locate the 43-kilo (95-pound) animal through a global positioning system, according a news release from the agency.


Police will be able to monitor the feline for public safety while scientists can increase their understanding of jaguars. The device will self-destruct in seven months, without harming the jaguar, it said in the release.


Officials and local farmers say jaguars are an important part of the jungle community despite the damage they can do to livestock.


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"It's a very significant species for our ancestors and our people today," said Georgita Ruiz, director of endangered species at the federal Environmental Department.


"It's an animal connected with water, with death, with destruction, with creation, with light and darkness," Ruiz said. "It's an animal that relates to the duality of our cultures, it's something very deep in our roots."


Jaguar of Light was captured by farmers near the village of Cristo Rey La Selva in October 2004 after it savaged 45 of their cows and 14 of their sheep.


The farmers handed the feline to authorities who held it temporarily in a zoo in the nearby town of Tlacolula under care of veterinarian Diego Woolrich Bermudez.


Woolrich asked the environmental protection agency for permission to release Jaguar of Light back into the jungle and, after carrying out tests to determine he was free of disease, they agreed.


The GPS collar was donated by the Mexico division of Spain-based car maker SEAT.


The jaguar, an endangered species, is the largest cat native to the Western Hemisphere and is found in countries throughout the continent.


Scientists estimate that are several hundred jaguars living in the jungles of southern Mexico.


"When we know that there are jaguars in the ecosystem, we know the ecosystem is healthy," Ruiz said. "It's a predator at the at top of the food chain and if we have a good population of jaguars, it means the jungle is healthy."


Source: Associated Press


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