The Brazilian Pantanal is home to the world’s highest population of Panthera onca: the Jaguar. The big cat is not confined to this area, however, and it makes its home in pockets of habitat throughout Central and South America as far south as Patagonia. In Peru, it’s estimated there are around 6,000 surviving in the wild. This is a number that has hugely declined in recent decades, in great part due to due to illegal poaching and loss of habitat through human and industrial encroachment.
While there are a number of Jaguar conservation initiatives in place in South and Central America to try to reverse the species’ ‘near threatened’ status, one company in Peru is taking a very novel approach.
Using Beer to Promote Jaguar Conservation
Cerveza San Juan, a Peruvian brewing company, is doing their part for Jaguar conservation by NOT featuring it on its product logo. A roaring otorongo has been part of the company’s branding for more than 40 years and, while removing its iconic image may seem counter-intuitive, by replacing the big cat with images of domestic animals (cows, pigs and dogs) it is actually drawing attention to its fight for survival.
The big-picture marketing team at the Cerveza San Juan brewery have tapped into the historical and cultural importance of the big cat throughout the Peruvian Amazon (and beyond). The removal of its image from the labelling of its product is designed to highlight its dwindling numbers due to habitat loss and illegal hunting.
The new labelling was revealed at a high-profile event held in the brewery’s home, the jungle city of Pucallpa, in May 2016. Of the two million bottles produced for the event, just 6,000 carried the old image of the big cat – the same number that survives today in Peru’s forests.
Alongside the new labelling, the company employed promotional staff to distribute comprehensive information on the conservation status of the big cat in Peru. They also circulated a petition to increase the animal’s legal protection, which went on to collect more than 50,000 signatures.
The Power of Otorongo
An enduring cultural symbol of power, strength and beauty, the fierce otorongo has made a return to the San Juan branding after its brief but impactful departure. Following the success of the publicity, the management of the brewery remain committed to aiding the big cat’s conservation by funding a campaign (Pucallpa Land of Otorongos) to educate the local community in their ecological importance, and partnering with environmental NGOs on other projects.
Cerveza San Juan’s innovative and forward-thinking approach to Jaguar conservation shows that even ordinary people can do their part. While there are a number of initiatives in place aimed at increasing the magnificent big cat’s chance of survival – including ecotourism and the establishment of wildlife corridors to ensure safe passage through shared human habitat – much more needs to be done if we are to reverse the worrying decline in its numbers.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in Jaguar conservation. As a passionate lover of big cats Marissa chooses the expert-led itineraries organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of wildlife in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.