Located in Guatemala’s northern Petén region, the Sierra del Lacandón National Park borders Mexico and covers an area of 501,300 acres (2,028 km2). It’s home to an impressive variety of flora and fauna, including many threatened and endangered species, such as the scarlet macaw (Ara macao) and the jaguar (Panthera onca).
Because of its role as a keystone species, the jaguar was designated a conservation priority in the Sierra del Lacandón National Park. In order to make decisions about adaptation management for such an important species it’s essential to first evaluate its current conservation status and primary habitat within the park. For this purpose, a monitoring program was launched in 2010. In a first phase, thirty-four camera traps were strategically set up in the park’s core, designated as the intangible (inviolable) core zone. As a result, four jaguars were photographed, as well as approximately 25 mammal species, out of which 18 were identified as potential jaguar prey.
During the second phase, an additional 50 cameras traps were installed in the intangible core zone for 90 consecutive days, using the methodology “Patch Occupancy,” which identifies priority conservation areas for the jaguar. During this time, 29 species were spotted, including the five feline species reported in the park: the jaguar (Panthera Onca), puma (Puma concolor), ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), margay (Leopardus wiedii), and jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi). In addition, several species subject to poaching were observed, for example the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari), collared peccary (Pecari tajacu), lowland paca (Cuniculus paca), nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcintus), and the great curassow (Crax rubra).
After the preliminary analysis of the results, it was established that the jaguar occupies 51% of the intangible core zone of the Sierra del Lacandón National Park, whereas the puma uses 88% and the ocelot 71% of this area. These results facilitate park operations, particularly in the intangible core zone, since they show that the jaguar’s survival depends on the habitat quality. Thus, by concentrating our conservation efforts to these areas we can reduce the pressure on the species and ensure a balance in the Park’s ecosystems.