Refuge: rationale and objectives
The issue of wild cats conservation is not an easy
one. First, because to preserve the species – securing their
live and health – it should be officially acknowledged as
a natural patrimony of the country. Second, because this would entail
the preservation of their natural habitats. And third, that would
have too large an implication on all levels of economy.
The necessary measures have been prescribed countless times. With
modern surveillance technologies, it would not be too difficult
for government authorities to map the areas with higher big cats
population density, establishing effective wildlife protection areas
and maintaining linking corridors wherever possible, to allow for
foraging. And these areas could then be turned into an attraction
for ecological tourism.
Logging, farming and cattle breeding projects should be monitored,
so that deforestation and woods burning would not happen.
Laws enforced with derisive fines are far from being a deterrent.
When a killing or trafficking is discovered, it is too late to repair
the damage. In the case of wild cats, specifically, impunity thrives.
Professional hunters, the major law violators, belong in a very
selective group that can buy silence - and thus they are rarely
On the other hand, why is a conservation refuge necessary? Because
the number of problem animals held in captivity is very high. Too
many wild felines are kept in extremely inadequate conditions in
Brazil. It would be very difficult to shelter them all, and a very
rigorous screening would be necessary. The conservation refuge would
take in emergency cases – and in fact, the five animals currently
sheltered at NEX fall into this category.
But our main focus is on animals withheld from traffickers. These
large cats are troublesome, and authorities are not equipped to
capture, relocate and reinsert them in other areas. They represent
a threat to livestock. And the only alternative is a zoo. In the
case of pumas, most zoos already suffer from overpopulation and
the lack the adequate structure to shelter any more.
So, this is what happens in the real world: whenever there is an
emergency call from a rancher about jaguars attacking their cattle,
all the answer they get is a visit from technicians to assess the
case. A report is written and that is that. Bureaucratic procedures
hamper the quality of service. Many ranchers have told us how little
they believe in solutions and assistance.
We do not intend to point fingers at anyone. We want to help. We
want to help solve this problem, partnering with government authorities.
We are aware of the difficulties of that task. We understand that
a solution is hard to get by, and no matter what strategy is used,
pumas and jaguars will still get the worst of it. To date, everything
that has been done in terms of wild cats conservation has not prevented
the killings. The feline population has been steadily decreasing.
And there are no two ways about it: either the essential is done
or felines will continue to get killed.
Ultimately, the main difficulty of capture lies not in bureaucracy
or in passive attitude, but rather in having a destination for the
animal. To solve this problem, NEX intends to offer a place with
adequate facilities to put animals in quarantine. And then, when
a proven predator must be captured, maybe other ranchers would rather
think of making a simple phone call than going out, killing the
jaguar and end up being fined.
And our goal is none other than prevent killings. Save the life
of animals that would otherwise be doomed to die prematurely. Notwithstanding
the obstacles and difficulties, we are structuring our Conservation
Refuge. We have set aside an area to put large felines in quarantine,
where they can be safely sheltered and managed. Incredible as it
may seem, that is a pioneer initiative, as there are no other refuges
of this kind in Brazil.
We will fight to send these animals back to wild life, or at least
to a protected habitat. If it proves altogether impossible of doing
it in partnership with government authorities, then we shall seek
the partnership of sister NGOs.
Nothing is farther from us than to think we have a readymade formula.
However, once the quarantine is less of a problem, there will certainly
be more enthusiasm to find alternative solutions. Saving animals’
lives and fighting for less academic and more objective conservation
policies are ample justification for building a Conservation Refuge
specializing in big cats.
Cristina Gianni – NEX
President, with Samson (Sansão).
“Safe in the Zoo”
(Excerpt from an article by Cláudio Fragata Lopes, published
in Galileu Magazine)
“Good evidence [to the zoos’ good work], are the management
plans that promote mating of endangered species from zoos all over
the country. Species like guará wolf, oncilla, blue macaw,
capybara, among others, are no longer on the hunters’ firearm
sight, they have become a target for these projects instead.”
"’Management plans should be more and more encouraged’,
says Cecília Amaral, head of the Paulista ecosystems representation
at the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural
Resources (IBAMA). Who knows, maybe in the future animals bred in
captivity may return to wild life. But before that happens, it is
necessary to educate future generations on conservation issues.
It would be senseless to preserve the fauna but forget the wild
lands– soon these animals would have nowhere to go. That is
why [this work of] environmental education for children promoted
by the zoo is so important.”