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The Path of the Jaguar

caption: Chris Morgan with a sign warning about jaguars in the jungles of Belize.
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Chris Morgan with a sign warning about jaguars in the jungles of Belize.
Chris Morgan

Over 60% of Belize is in a natural, wild state, but development is threatening the movements of the jaguars. In this episode, I'll meet the people who are trying to help protect these jungle cats.

I’m in Belize, in central America. I start up the steps of the temple at Caracol. It's like climbing a pyramid - except this one is in the middle of the jungle.

Belize historian Jeronimo Tzib is beside me on the steps. He tells me the jaguar is a very symbolic animal that represents power and authority for Mayas.

'It's more a spiritual connection of the gods to the Mayas,' he says, 'because then that's how they would petition for favors from the Gods.'

caption: Photo of a jaguar captured on a remote camera in Belize.
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Photo of a jaguar captured on a remote camera in Belize.
Emma Sanchez, Courtesy of Panthera

These jaguars are almost invisible here, living in an almost impenetrable jungle. Belize has done a lot to protect these jungle cats.

But in the central part, development is increasing. Jungle is turning to farmland along the main highway that literally divides Belize in two. The country is close to losing the last forested connection between the jungles in the north and the jungles in the south.

caption: Chris Morgan measuring a fresh jaguar track in Belize.
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Chris Morgan measuring a fresh jaguar track in Belize.
Chris Morgan

And this is a problem because the key to the big cat’s future is connectivity. If their pathway through the middle of the country is cut off, it could be devastating for them.

This is my journey from the north to the south, through what's called the Maya Forest Corridor. I’ll get to know the place and the people, fighting to maintain ‘the path of the jaguar’. And my fingers are crossed, maybe I’ll even see one along the way!

Recommended links from Chris Morgan:

Runaway Creek Nature Reserve

Panthera Jaguar Corridor Initiative

THE WILD is a production of KUOW in Seattle in partnership with Chris Morgan and Wildlife Media. It is produced by Matt Martin and edited by Jim Gates. It is hosted, produced and written by Chris Morgan. Fact checking by Apryle Craig. Our theme music is by Michael Parker.

Follow us on Instagram (@thewildpod) for more adventures and behind the scenes action!

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