December 4, 2023
An Apex Predator Returns
- as seen by -Alys Granados
Only a few years ago, this apex predator was thought to no longer exist in El Salvador. Pumas (also known as mountain lions and cougars) range from Northern Canada down to South America, but, along with many other wildlife in El Salvador, were presumed absent following decades of human-induced habitat degradation. A 2019 camera trap survey produced the first confirmed photographic evidence of pumas in El Salvador in over 70 years, representing significant hope for the future of El Salvador’s biodiversity.
El Salvador, the smallest nation in Central America, ranks as the second most deforested country in the Americas (after Haiti). The civil war from 1980 to 1992 was accompanied by unregulated natural resource extraction and agricultural land abandonment, but after the war, forests began to recover. Our camera trap surveys in Río Sapo near the Honduran border, have documented several species including anteater, ocelot, margay, jaguarundi, and white-tailed deer.
Encroachment into the conservation area remains a challenge, but collaboration with landowners in surrounding communities including those returning to their previously abandoned lands is a crucial part of this work. Compared to the rest of Latin America, ecological research in El Salvador is almost non-existent. Our ongoing camera trap surveys aim to provide vital information about the ecology of pumas and other wildlife, which are essential for forest protection and restoration in El Salvador.
With contributions from Francisco S. Álvarez, Xochilt Pocasangre-Orellana, Sofía Grimaldi, Luis Girón, and Melissa Ródriguez.