Empowering local communities to drive conservation of medium and large mammals in the Cerrado

Letícia Benavalli

We plan to document and conserve a newly discovered metapopulation of jaguars and their prey using a network of small reserves and private lands in the southern Cerrado, Brazil. The Cerrado, a vast tropical savanna, is a global biodiversity hotspot, but it is threatened because only 20% of the original vegetation remains. However, we have detected a low-density breeding population that uses small isolated reserves (including an urban park) and private lands over a vast area. There is an urgent need to better document this cryptic population of jaguars and its prey because conserving it could help connect jaguars throughout their entire southern distribution (from the Atlantic Forest to the Pantanal and Amazon). Our project will not only help to conserve the target species, but it will also focus on expanding and protecting Cerrado habitat, which ultimately will positively impact all biodiversity in the region, and help to mitigate the effects of climate change. Our project will consider not only the environmental aspects, but also the socio and economical aspects to promote the long-term conservation of this apex carnivore and its prey since we plan to promote ecotourism, and develop education programs about better livestock protection, and involve rural local women in our project to increase their capacity and empower them and the youth.