Kaminando’s ongoing research focuses on the largest felid in the Americas, the jaguar (Panthera onca). The wide-ranging carnivore is an important part of the area’s ecology, culture and history. However, the species is considered near threatened (IUCN 2009) across most of its range and it is threatened in Panama. The decline of jaguars is attributed to anthropogenic pressures that conflict with their basic ecological needs. The biggest threat comes from deforestation, which causes habitat fragmentation that isolates jaguar populations. Prey depletion and illegal killing have also contributed to their decline.

Study Area and Goals

The study area currently encompasses 220 km2, which includes The Mamoní Valley Preserve (MVP), The Guna Yala Territory and The Chagres National Park in Panama. Our research will determine stepping-stone habitats that enable jaguar movement through the narrowest stretch of the Isthmus of Panama, also know as the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor.

We are examining how the nature of intervening landscape elements influence the occupation and dispersal of jaguars. Our program is determining jaguar density across landscape systems within the Guna Yala Comarca, Chagres National Park and the MVP. Additionally, we are establishing whether the study area supports ample populations of jaguar prey (i.e. white-lipped peccary, collared peccary, tapir).

Camera Traps

Our methodology involves a detection/non-detection sampling technique using camera traps. Cameras provide photographic imagery of passing jaguars. We then analyze landscape and environmental covariates to determine jaguar distribution and movement within the study area. Camera trapping also provides data on other cat species (puma, ocelot, margay, jaguarundi) and their prey.

Tropical Montane Cloud Forest (TMCF)

TMCFs worldwide have been disappearing rapidly. They face localized threats such as fragmentation and deforestation resulting from human population pressure. Consequently, TMCFs are high on the list of the world’s most threatened terrestrial ecosystems. To date, these rare ecosystems occupy about 0.14% of the entire land surface of the planet.

The most recognizable and defining feature of a TMCF is frequent cloud cover, which produces unique climate conditions. Rainfall is often heavy, and condensation occurs due to cooling of moisture-laden air currents deflected upward by the mountains. Research suggests that the timing, strength and frequency of cloud cover is fluctuating due to climate change (rising temperatures).

TMCFs are home to an incredible number of plant and animal species with high rates of endemism. Unfortunately, they are extremely vulnerable to a host of anthropogenic pressures such as unsustainable logging, cattle grazing and hunting.

TMCF are found along the Caribbean coast of eastern Panama at elevations ranging from 500 and 1,000 m (1,650 to 3,300 feet), which includes the reaches of Mamoní Valley Preserve.