Animal Conservation Group Partners With Mount Sinai School of Medicine to Protect Jaguars

Panthers lounging photo

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The link between human health and animal conservation isn't an obvious one, but one wildlife-conservation group wants to demonstrate that saving jaguars and other big cats can also improve the lives of people.

Panthera, an international organization that works to protect wild cats and their habitats, has teamed up with the Mount Sinai School of Medicine's Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute to train a new brand of "doctor conservationists" in Brazil's Pantanal region, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that boasts over 700 square kilometers of critical jaguar habitat. It also happens to be the largest cattle-ranching domain in the world and a hotbed of rancher-jaguar conflict.Profitable cattle ranching and jaguar conservation are not mutually exclusive concepts, says Alan Rabinowitz, Pathera's president and CEO, in a press release. "Coupled with our efforts to build a school for local children and to explore the development of ecotourism," he adds, "our partnership with the Mount Sinai School of Medicine is a critical link in Panthera's outreach efforts as it provides healthcare to ranchers, offers opportunities to initiate research projects that would foster human and wildlife health and allows our staff to provide the local community with tools to mitigate conflict and foster tolerance for jaguars."

Besides improving living standards, the program will also be exploring how ecological instability caused by the sudden decline of predators like jaguars can result in the spread of major infectious diseases such as Ebola and the avian flu. "A major goal of the new program is to give medical and graduate students a deeper understanding about the links between animal and human diseases so that we may recognize the earlier signs of trouble," says Mary E. Klotman, MD, co-director of Mount Sinai's Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute.

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