Over the last eight years, the population of wild jaguars in Mexico has grown by 20 percent, according to a new survey.
There are currently 4,800 jaguars in Mexico, according to the study, which was carried out using nearly 400 remotely activated cameras installed throughout 11 Mexican states. The cameras took more than 4,500 photographs over a period of 60 days. Of those images, 348 were of jaguars and researchers were able to identify 46 individual animals. The cameras also captured 3,556 photographs of 20 species that serve as a food source for the big cat.
"The presence of jaguars ensures the functioning of the ecosystems, by regulating the population of herbivores, as well as being an indicator of the ecosystems' good health," said Heliot Zarza, vice president of the National Alliance for Jaguar Conservation, in a statement released by the World Wildlife Fund.
The survey was led by researchers from 16 institutions and 25 academic groups. The first edition of the study was held in 2010.
Jaguars can be found in 18 countries of Latin America. There are about 64,000 jaguars in the wild and that number is decreasing, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which has classified the feline as "near threatened."
The growth in Mexico, however, is at least partially due to a conservation program implemented in 2005 under the country's national parks service, said study coordinator Dr. Gerardo Ceballos of the Institute of Ecology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
The species received an additional continental boost earlier this year when 14 Latina American countries signed an agreement on March 1 at the United Nations, implementing a regional conservation program for the jaguar through 2030.
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