Caatinga

The Caatinga is a semi-arid biome found only in northeastern Brazil. The vegetation there has adapted to the current climate of a short rainy season and continuous high temperatures throughout the year. Ranging over some 800,000 km2 and covering about 10% of the country, the Caatinga is Brazil’s third largest biome. There are 36 protected areas in the Caatinga, corresponding to about 7% of the Caatinga’s total area. However just over one percent (1.21%) of this protected area has restricted human use meaning full protection (MMA, 2005).

The climate factors of high temperatures and lack of rain aligned with low soil fertility have restricted large-scale agriculture in this environment. Therefore subsistence farming is the predominate living alternative for local inhabitants. Because there is a high rate of poverty for the Caatinga residents, and because the habitat tends to be fragmented, (Castelletti et al., 2004) the people have been pressured to turn to subsistence hunting. This local human competition for the jaguars’ food sources appears to be the major threat to continuation of the jaguar species in the Caatinga.

The Jaguar Conservation Fund is currently studying the following two protected jaguar populations in the Caatinga:

Serra da Capivara National Park: This site is in the southwest portion of the Piaui State. UNESCO considers the park area of 130,000 hectares (321,235 acres) a Human Heritage Asset. This park has two outstanding features of significance: a rich collection of cave paintings within its borders, and one of the most impressive jaguar populations in the Caatinga.

Serra das Confusoes National Park: This park borders on the Serra da Capivara National Park and has almost four times the area of its neighbor. At 526,000 hectares (1,299,769 acres), it is the largest protected park in the Caatinga.

Both parks combined are by far the largest and best Caatinga fauna refuge of the entire biome. If jaguars are to persist in the Caatinga, these two parks are of utmost importance in the fight to save these magnificent animals.