Bernardo Mesa Cruz
Research: Population assessment of Belizean jaguars (Panthera onca) through non-invasive genetic, stress-hormone, and diet analyses
Abstract: Jaguars are threatened with extinction because of habitat destruction and human persecution. Factors impacting the well-being of jaguars still remain unknown. Human activities around protected areas in Belize are increasing and so are levels of human-jaguar conflict (H-JC). Potential consequences of this conflict are an increase in stress that negatively impacts jaguar health, or a heightening of animal aggression resulting in more conflict. Using a detector dog, we collected scat for analysis of DNA, fecal glucocorticoid metabolites (FGM), parasites and diet of jaguars ranging areas of varying disturbance. We hypothesize that jaguars living in disturbed areas will have higher FGM, higher parasite loads and shifts from natural diet. If so, these changes could compromise jaguar health and decrease their ability to survive and persist in impacted habitats. This study pioneers assessment of FGM in wild jaguars. Results appertain to identify sources of potentially detrimental stress for jaguars.