People and Jaguars: How local communities perceive the species in five brazilian biomes
To study human perception of the jaguar, its regional differences and factors that influence it, members of rural communities were interviewed in five Brazilian biomes.
Human perception of a species can be a determinant for the success of conserving the species. Generally, people tend to protect animals because of their beauty, strength, charisma, or exoticism. On the other hand, people have the tendency to eliminate animals that can attack us, cause harm or compete with economic interests. The jaguar is a species that causes a mixture of these reactions and therefore, evokes different feelings in different rural communities throughout its distribution. This means that the species is at the same time admired by some and seen as a threat by others.
Considering that perception influences attitude and behavior, and therefore, will determine the success or failure of conservation strategies, this project focused on identifying perceptions of local communities about the jaguar in five Brazilian biomes (Caatinga, Cerrado, Pantanal, Amazon and Atlantic Forest).
Results showed that the majority of the interviewees believe that the jaguar should not be eliminated from nature. In the Pantanal, the majority recognized the species’ importance for ecological equilibrium, while in the other areas, motives cited more frequently were religious (the jaguar being a creation of God) and anthropocentric (the possibility of humans enjoying the jaguar’s beauty).
The Amazon, Pantanal and Cerrado showed predominately positive perceptions of the jaguar, while in the Caatinga and Atlantic Forest, negative perceptions like fear and danger where more frequent (Santos et al., 2008). In all areas, the species is considered a symbol of Brazilian biodiversity. However, in spite of the similarities, the biomes present distinct realities, with distinct cultures, habits and relations to the local fauna.
Santos, F.R., Jácomo, A.T.A., and Silveira, L. 2008. Humans and Jaguars in Five Brazilian Biomes: Same Country, Different Perceptions. Cat News Special Issue 4, 21-25.