Passion with a Purpose

October 1, 2013


By Monica Surfaro Spigelman, BizTucson

Photos published this summer of a lone adult male jaguar roaming in the Santa Rita Mountains put this endangered species back into the spotlight.

Precious few Panthera onca – or “roaring” jaguars – demand our attention in Southern Arizona.

Yet it is here where a multinational effort is underway to ensure both a sanctuary and a pathway along the U.S.-Mexico borderland that will allow the endangered wild felines to again roam free in their former range in the southwestern United States.

“We cannot only save this species, but we can offer an umbrella of protection to the abundant biodiversity that shares this habitat,” said Diana Hadley, retired director of the Arizona State Museum’s Office of Ethnohistorical Research at the University of Arizona.

The former rancher is now president of the international nonprofit Northern Jaguar Project.

Currently there are dozens of threatened or endangered bird, amphibian and butterfly species that inhabit the Northern Jaguar Reserve. The reserve is believed to be the northernmost nesting site for the military macaw, as well as the southern-most nesting site of the bald eagle – and the only area where these two bird species intermingle, according to the NJP website.

In 2003, 10,000 acres were acquired, followed by the purchase of an adjacent ranch, adding 35,000 acres in 2008 and officially establishing the Northern Jaguar Reserve and a bi-national partnership with Naturalia, Mexico’s respected nonprofit conservation organization.

The jaguar was hunted to near extinction by the mid-1900s, Hadley said. The last kill of a resident female jaguar residing in the Grand Canyon was documented in 1963. Only lone males have been sighted since then. An estimated 80 to 120 jaguars inhabit the isolated zone of the Sonoran Desert in Mexico, approximately 125 miles south of Douglas, Hadley said.

On Oct. 25, Jane Hamilton Fine Art gallery will host the Jaguar Jamboree, a benefit for the Northern Jaguar Project.

Guests can purchase raffle tickets for local artist Barry Sapp’s original acrylic Tigres del Desierto – a painting based on video taken by a remote camera of two jaguars walking together through an arroyo.

Event highlights include jaguar blues music by singer/songerwriter Kevin Pakulis, Sonoran-style appetizers, Bacanora tasting and Mexican ethnic artistic jaguar masks for sale.

The Jaguar Club of Southern Arizona is a Jaguar Jamboree event supporter, as is the Royal Jaguar dealership of Tucson. JCSA president Diana Raymond said, “We’ll have a 50/50 raffle in support of the Northern Jaguar Project during our Concours D’Elegance event that weekend. Our members also are encouraged to attend and support the Jamboree.”