A Jaguar Crosses the Road

By Daniela Araya
Wild Cats Friendly Roads Project Coordinator

Jaguar crosses the road

Early on a Monday morning in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, an employee of Grupo ICE named Helder Casanova was going to work when he spotted something unusual: a jaguar, casually crossing the road.

Over the last two decades, the Costa Rican government and various partners have worked together to restore forests and landscapes and protect the country's wildlife, including jaguars. According to Carlos Manuel Rodriguez from Conservation International, this area used to be "an endless sea of pastures and cattle with just scattered trees" — now, its healthy forest is the perfect habitat for jaguars like this one.

In order to maintain genetic variability within the species, it’s important for jaguars to be able to move easily throughout their range. Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative is working to preserve and connect jaguar populations from Mexico to Argentina, but there are many barriers to connectivity, including habitat loss due to deforestation and illegal hunting. And what about roads?

In Central America, roads are crucial for the transportation of goods, and there has been an ongoing effort to build new roads and improve existing ones by turning gravel roads into paved roads. We know jaguars use gravel roads to move, rest and mate, and we’ve observed that some jaguars avoid paved roads or die trying to cross them.

Here in Costa Rica, Panthera is working with Comite Científico Vías y Vida Silvestre, Centro de Rescate las Pumas, UNED, and SINAC to develop the Environmental Guide for Wildlife Friendly Roads. This is a tool for the development of mitigation measures to reduce the impact of roads on wildlife based on scientific data. So with the implementation of this guide in new road improvement projects, roads for jaguars and other animals will become a priority for the future of Costa Rica.