June 19, 2009
by Chris Vogel
Ever heard of the jaguarundi? Neither have we.
Perhaps that's because this unique type of cat that lives along the Texas border with Mexico is endangered. Perhaps it's because nobody really cares. We're guessing it's a bit of both, but that doesn't mean every animal shouldn't have some human in their corner pulling for them.
WildEarth Guardian, a non-profit environmental organization, recently waged war in the form of a lawsuit in Houston federal court against Ken Salazar, Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, demanding that he put a conservation and survival plan together for the animal. After all, the organization argues, the cat has been listed as endangered since 1976, plenty of time to create such a plan as required under the Endangered Species Act.
Two types of the endangered species call south Texas their home, the Gulf Coast jaguarundi and the Sinaloan jaguarundi. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they are larger than a domestic cat and have small ears, long, narrow bodies with short legs and flattened heads and tails. They generally look more like an otter or a weasel than a cat. They make their homes, according to the lawsuit, in the "dense thorny mesquite, cacti and cat claw thickets of southern Texas."
WildEarth argues that humans are making it tough on the jaguarundi these days.
Farmers are clearing away their habitat to make room for more vegetables and crops. Plus, says the organization, the border fence between the United States and Mexico is keeping the animal from crossing back and forth within its own natural environment, thus limiting their access to other jaguarundis to mate with.
According to the lawsuit, Salazar must create and implement a recovery plan for all endangered species unless he decides that such a plan will not promote the conservation of the species. So far, no such decision has been made. But neither has a plan. WildEarth is asking the judge to declare the fact that there is no plan so many years after the jaguarundi was declared endangered to be a violation of the Endangered Species Act and to make Salazar prepare and implement a plan.
Who knows, if it works, maybe all Texans will have heard about the jaguarundi.