Getting People to Coexist with Cats
As the human population has grown in the Pantanal, the vast wetland in central Brazil, people and big cats — namely the South American jaguar — are encroaching increasingly on each other's territory. When conflict occurs, as it inevitably does, the cats are usually the ones who lose.
From the distance of a magazine story or a National Geographic special, it can be hard to understand why anyone would want to kill the very beautiful, very endangered jaguar. But if you're a Brazilian cattle farmer whose cows keep getting eaten by jaguars, the killing makes a little more sense. (See pictures of 10 species on the brink.)
This is the kind of situation to which conservationists might have responded by cordoning off protected habitats and reserves — building a fence, in effect, between the wild animals and the people. But in the Pantanal, and in much of the rest of our once wild, once underpopulated world, total separation is simply not a sustainable option. That's especially true for jaguars and other big cats, which need a lot of room to roam, far more than could be fenced off. "The big cats' territory is crossing over to the human landscape," says Alan Rabinowitz, a renowned conservationist and the president of the new wildlife group Panthera. "At its root, we have to get people to be able to live with the big cats."