Famed biologist opposes critical habitat for jaguars in NYT piece

2010-01-25T09:55:00Z Famed biologist opposes critical habitat for jaguars in NYT pieceTim Steller Arizona Daily Star

Renowned big-cat biologist Alan Rabinowitz published an opinion piece in the New York Times today, arguing against the recent decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to establish a recovery plan and critical habitat in the United States for the endangered jaguar.

For those who have been following the jaguar issue in Arizona, the opinion is not surprising. Rabinowitz, who has advised the Arizona-New Mexico Jaguar Conservation Team, has long dismissed the significance of the jaguars who occasionally appear in Southern Arizona and New Mexico, saying they aren't important to the broader population of jaguars.

Rabinowitz makes this argument again in today's piece. It's a comprehensible one from a man who has a global view of the survival of this species. He seems to be saying common-sense would dictate that the federal government not waste money on trying to create nice jaguar habitat in an area that is marginal for the species.

While I understand his position, I also can see the point of view of the conservation groups, Defenders of Wildlife and Center for Biological Diversity, who sued for the establishment of a recovery plan and critical habitat. They're concerned here about jaguars in the United States, it seems.

Rabinowitz refers to these groups as "well-intentioned" then slaps them with this line: "Apparently, they want jaguars to repopulate the United States even if jaguars don’t want to."

That seems a rather fatalistic view of preserving species in general, doesn't it? You could say about any endangered species that they "don't want to" repopulate their previous habitat, when in many cases the problem is that we people are preventing them. What if he had said "they want bald eagles to repopulate the United States even if eagles don't want to"? Could you also say the Steller's sea cow (my favorite extinct animal), for example, died off because it didn't want to survive?

I also noticed a slight change in Rabinowitz's posture toward Macho B. Back when Jack Childs and Emil McCain published their 2008 study (available at that site) arguing for the existence of resident jaguars in the United States. At the time, as I understand it from reading the Jaguar Conservation Team's Aug. 25 2008 meeting minutes, Rabinowitz contested their conclusion. Now, he says "But Macho B, now dead, might have been the sole resident American jaguar." In other words, he acknowledges the existence of one resident U.S. jaguar now that Macho B is dead.

What did you think?


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About this blog

When you're a reporter digging deep, you turn up a lot of dirt. But that doesn't mean you can put all the good dirt in the story.

I've found myself with a lot of extra, good dirt in my new role as senior reporter (hence, Señor Reporter), writing primarily for the Arizona Daily Star's Sunday paper.

Check in often, and let's see what we can turn up.

Contact Tim Steller at (520) 807-8427 or tsteller@tucson.com

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