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Multi-criteria spatial identification of carnivore conservation areas under data scarcity and conflict: a jaguar case study in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia

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Human–wildlife conflict, habitat loss, and prey hunting are the main threats to carnivore species worldwide. Forest conversion as consequence of deforestation and agricultural expansion increases the proximity between carnivores and humans, thereby escalating conflicts. Knowledge about carnivore species in data-poor countries, such as Colombia, is scarce which has the potential to result in poor landscape planning decisions. For many species, the only existing spatial information resides in expert-driven approaches which result in coarse-resolution ‘extent-of-occurrence’ maps. There is an increasing need for the development of methodologies to identify conservation and management areas at appropriate scales. Multi-criteria approaches will allow the inclusion of diverse species attributes enabling environmental institutions to address complex landscape decisions that result in conservation and management of carnivore habitat. We present a multi-criteria spatial identification tool for conservation and management areas, focused on Jaguars (Panthera onca) in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, in northern Colombia. Our approach identifies areas based on the relationship between three spatial criteria: (1) suitable habitat patches, (2) habitat connectivity, and (3) zones of higher likelihood of human–jaguar conflict. We identified areas with the presence of at least one spatial criteria in 32% of the study area. Only 16.28% of these occur within protected areas (PAs) and the remaining fall on private lands (83.72%), either within (35.68%) or outside (48.04%) buffer zones of PAs. Our results highlight the need for multi-stakeholder collaborative approaches given that most proposed conservation areas fall on private rather than public lands.

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We thank all the researchers, students, farmers, and field crew that have participated in the Wild Felids Conservation Plan for the Colombian Caribbean Region. We also thank Parques Nacionales Naturales de Colombia, CORPAMAG, CORPOGUAJIRA and CORPOCESAR for supporting different projects in the study area that provide valuable information for the present manuscript. Grants from Colciencias and Fulbright supported this research. We developed the present project with invaluable support from Proyecto de Conservación de Aguas y Tierras and the Sierra to Sea Institute. The authors also thank Urs Kormann for his comments and support during the development of this paper and Jessica Dayanh Reyes Arias and Sebastian Jimenez Alvarado for their contribution organizing the literature review.


Funding was provided by Wild felid monitor (Grant No. Latin American Grant).

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Correspondence to Diego A. Zárrate-Charry.

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Communicated by Stephen Garnett.

This article belongs to the Topical Collection: Biodiversity protection and reserves.

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Online Resource 1

a) Cover types previously reported as jaguar habitat used to define suitable patches. b) References used to identify cover types reported as jaguar habitat. C) Reported home range of jaguar in similar landscapes from America. Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 29 kb)

Online Resource 2

Mean resistance values defined for each influencing variable for jaguar movement in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 28 kb)

Online Resource 3

Detailed output of ecological niche model for jaguar in Sierra Nevada. Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 485 kb)

Online Resource 4

Detailed output of likelihood of occurrence of conflict model. Supplementary material 4 (DOCX 745 kb)

Online Resource 5

Conservation and management areas for jaguar by department, tenure and type in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia. Supplementary material 5 (DOCX 25 kb)

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Zárrate-Charry, D.A., Massey, A.L., González-Maya, J.F. et al. Multi-criteria spatial identification of carnivore conservation areas under data scarcity and conflict: a jaguar case study in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia. Biodivers Conserv 27, 3373–3392 (2018).

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