Estimating large carnivore populations at global scale based on spatial predictions of density and distribution - Application to the jaguar (Panthera onca)

Włodzimierz Jȩdrzejewski, Hugh S. Robinson, Maria Abarca, Katherine A. Zeller, Grisel Velasquez, Evi A.D. Paemelaere, Joshua F. Goldberg, Esteban Payan, Rafael Hoogesteijn, Ernesto O. Boede, Krzysztof Schmidt, Margarita Lampo, Ángel L. Viloria, Rafael Carreño, Nathaniel Robinson, Paul M. Lukacs, J. Joshua Nowak, Roberto Salom-Pérez, Franklin Castañeda, Valeria BoronHoward Quigley

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91 Scopus citations


Broad scale population estimates of declining species are desired for conservation efforts. However, for many secretive species including large carnivores, such estimates are often difficult. Based on published density estimates obtained through camera trapping, presence/absence data, and globally available predictive variables derived from satellite imagery, we modelled density and occurrence of a large carnivore, the jaguar, across the species' entire range. We then combined these models in a hierarchical framework to estimate the total population. Our models indicate that potential jaguar density is best predicted by measures of primary productivity, with the highest densities in the most productive tropical habitats and a clear declining gradient with distance from the equator. Jaguar distribution, in contrast, is determined by the combined effects of human impacts and environmental factors: probability of jaguar occurrence increased with forest cover, mean temperature, and annual precipitation and declined with increases in human foot print index and human density. Probability of occurrence was also significantly higher for protected areas than outside of them. We estimated the world's jaguar population at 173,000 (95% CI: 138,000-208,000) individuals, mostly concentrated in the Amazon Basin; elsewhere, populations tend to be small and fragmented. The high number of jaguars results from the large total area still occupied (almost 9 million km2) and low human densities (< 1 person/km2) coinciding with high primary productivity in the core area of jaguar range. Our results show the importance of protected areas for jaguar persistence. We conclude that combining modelling of density and distribution can reveal ecological patterns and processes at global scales, can provide robust estimates for use in species assessments, and can guide broad-scale conservation actions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0194719
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2018


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