Requiem for a jaguar


On Feb. 20, we wrote that for the first time ever in the U.S., scientists had trapped a jaguar and fitted it with  a radio tracking collar.  Just 10 days later, though, the big cat was dead.

Known as Macho B, he had prowled 500 square miles of the U.S.-Mexico border region  for more than a decade (see our story "Cat Fight on the Border"). Distinguishable by a Pinocchio-shaped rosette on his side, he was photographed by remote cameras 63 times during those years. In his prime Macho B weighed up to to 150 pounds, but he was down to 118 when he was captured in February, although scientists thought the 16-year-old cat still looked to be "in fine shape." When he was recaptured last Sunday and euthanized by a zoo vet, kidney failure had whittled his frame to 99 pounds, reports the Arizona Republic.

Perhaps Macho B got caught the first time because illness had already slowed him down, making him less wary of free meals in metal boxes. Perhaps the stress of capture and sedation pushed his aging body past some limit. Whatever the reason, it's unfortunate that a wild jaguar who'd survived the hazards of the border for 16 years had to spend his last hours being trundled to the zoo.

Macho B's death is a blow to jaguar recovery in the U.S. -- only six of the big cats have ever been documented in this country. The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a lawsuit over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's failure to develop a recovery plan and designate critical habitat for the jaguar. A hearing is scheduled for March 23 in Tucson, Ariz. “Macho’s legacy should be action to develop a science-based recovery plan and protection of the areas (jaguars) call home to ensure their survival,” wrote the Center's Michael Robinson in a press release.