January 28, 2009--
A jaguar triggers a camera trap in an picture released January 27 as part of the first comprehensive survey of jaguar populations in the Ecuadorian
Amazon rain forest. The same camera captured an extremely rare short-eared dog and pig-like wild white-lipped peccaries, among other animals.
sightings are rare, except in faux-fur circles. But the ongoing camera-trap survey has yielded 75 new jaguar pictures since 2007.
Researcher Santiago Espinosa of the Wildlife Conservation Society set up heat-sensing cameras to capture shots of the jungle-dwelling carnivores, each of which can be identified by its unique spot pattern.
The survey aims to establish the jaguar's population before further development and oil exploration occurs in the region. Espinosa's preliminary results didn't count many jaguars: Fourteen were identified in a very remote area, and just three were found within heavily-trafficked Yasuni National Park.
Jaguar numbers fell sharply in the 1960s and 1970s, largely due to the fur trade. Though the wild jaguars once thrived throughout North and South America, they now live primarily in remote Amazon regions, where their populations are difficult to count.
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Photograph courtesy Santiago Espinosa