How much does it cost to kill a jaguar anyway?


Macho B., thought to be the last wild jaguar in the US, died Monday in Arizona. The 118-pound animal was 16 years old and had been fairly recently collared by researchers. In the middle of February, he was accidentally captured in an Arizona Game
and Fish Department trap. After discovering that he was suffering from irreparable kidney failure, wildlife authorities
euthanized Macho.

Whether Macho’s capture and collaring contributed to his death or whether his illness was due to age will be known soon enough. Either way, the loss of this big cat is a tragedy for all of us.

I am privileged to work with some very gifted field biologists and I know that scientists do not tag and collar animals frivolously. Such actions are usually done so that we can better learn how to help species survive. Sometimes it’s just too late, there aren’t enough animals left, extinction is certain, and all we can do is learn whatnot to do next time. I have a friend who spends a great portion of his time studying asingle species of toad, the last few of which survive in only one or two places in Texas. Pollution and development have slowly killed off, will soon completely extirpate, this species. Unfortunately, others will soon follow. Because of the their complex respiratory systems, amphibians are, as described by the overused but accurate phrase, canaries in our coal mine. The state of amphibians is a living, actually dying, picture of our air quality. And it’s not good, not at all good, that so many of them are disappearing right under our noses. Not just within our lifetime but within this decade.

I think about my friend and his toads, and the other good folks I know studying other wild animals and the environment, every single time I hear the bullshit, anti-science, conservative screed about liberals wanting to spend millions to fund someone doing something with some animal, the “how much does it cost to control a beaver anyway?” crap. Some of the scientists studying Macho B the jaguar, and now grieving his death, had been doing so for their entire careers. How do we quantify this work, how do we count the money spent versus the death of a species and its impact on our culture and our ecosystem? 

Compare this also to the billions being spent on that destructive boondoggle, the Border Wall, still being built on our new president’s watch. Whatever the toxicologists discover in Macho’s post-mortem, we know that his territory was bisected by that goddamned wall. We know that the wall is having devastating effects on the jaguar and ocelots, on the antelopes, javelinas, deer and mountain lions trying to survive along the US/Mexico borderlands, not to mention, of course, the humans struggling to carry on with their own lives.

We know that back in 2008, when Congress gave DHS Secretary Chertoff authority to waive all
legal requirements necessary to expeditiously install additional barriers and roads at the border “to deter illegal activity,”they pretty much signed off on Macho’s death warrant.

“The department remains deeply committed to environmental
responsibility, and will continue to work closely with the Department
of Interior and other federal and state resources management agencies
to ensure impacts to the environment, wildlife, and cultural and
historic artifacts are analyzed and minimized,” said Chertoff.

And of course, the Department of the Interior, the agency tasked with protecting our wildlands, went right along.

The DOI has a legal obligation to manage and oversee Interior lands
consistent with laws such as the Wilderness Act and the National
Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, and the agency said in a
statement Tuesday that it cannot approve the border fences and walls
and still obey these laws.

As a result, the DOI said it sees the need for the waivers.

“We will continue to work with them closely to protect environmental values and mitigate impacts,” the DOI said. “Among other actions, we
look forward to finalizing an agreement with DHS that documents their
commitment to fund mitigation projects for threatened and endangered
species valued up to $50 million.

The photo below is Macho Bback in 2006. This was before the collar, before the wall. This was the last living wild jaguar in the country.

Put a price tag on this, Senators. Mitigate this, sirs.


6 thoughts on “How much does it cost to kill a jaguar anyway?

  1. Every single time I hear the bullshit, anti-science, conservative screed about liberals wanting to spend millions to fund someone doing something with some animal, I realise how few people really are “systems thinkers,” and how many people just don’t get that some of the things with the biggest impacts are also the things that seem the most insignificant at first glance. I devoted several years of my life to studying literature and rhetoric, what some people might say was a useless waste of time, and the single most useful thing it taught me was how to evaluate thesignificance of things large and small. (I feel roughly the same about people who assume that liberal arts degrees = waste of time = flipping burgers as I do about people who feel that studying animals = waste of time. Both of which engender in me thoughts of “WAY TO MISS THE POINT…”)
    What is thesignificance of the terminal illness and death of the last wild jaguar in the United States? To me, it signifies a broken ecology, and an unhealthy human culture surrounding and intertwined with that ecology. Which is something the anti-science, anti-systems crowd will never, ever understand, alas…

  2. Of course, furry skin sells easier on the “cute factor” than cool and moist. And some people don’t accept the argument that all forms of life have an intrinsic value. But as Interrobang said, we live in a SYSTEM.
    Add in the number of plant species we’ve destroyed. The number of species living in a small geographic niche that can’t move to accomodate global warming. As Virgo mentioned, the signs appearing in amphibians that are very potentially the sentinel events of what we are doing to ourselves.

  3. I accept that there will always be stupid people who don’t understand or don’t care or don’t believe the systemic importance of endangered species. They are, however, not as high on my shitlist as the politicians and lobbyists, most of whom know the truth very well, but choose to use the cost/anti-science stance to galvanize/manipulate these low-information yokel voters.

  4. Aw, damn, virgotex. I didn’t know … thank you for this memorial.
    Down with the wall.
    Hell, down with “The Department of Homeland Security.”

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