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HomeOpinionWhy the contact of animals with people at Instituto Onça-Pintada is criticized

Why the contact of animals with people at Instituto Onça-Pintada is criticized


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Instituto Onça-Pintada, in Goiás, and its owners went from popularity, with more than 18 million followers —considering the sum of family members’ social media accounts—, views and likes, to strong public scrutiny and silence. on the networks, which has been going on for weeks.

Chances are you’ve already come across images or videos of wild animals interacting with people and even children. Among them, it would not be surprising that one originated in the institute run by Leandro Silveira and Anah Tereza de Almeida Jácomo, his wife. On social media, they gained popularity for the images in which wild animals are close to them.

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However, recently, they also drew attention due to fines imposed by Ibama to the institute, which totaled R$ 452,500. Another, older, is R$ 1,500. Among the causes, in addition to the deaths of 72 animals and accusations of mistreatment, is the exposure of animals, which often appear in videos close to the couple.

The Goiás State Secretariat for the Environment and Sustainable Development said it had not yet been notified of the inspections at the institute and that it had recently carried out inspections at the site, which would have satisfactory conditions.

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To the report, the MPF stated that, after receiving the information it had requested from the institute, it requested the filing of the case in the criminal area and, in the civil sphere, requested an in-person expertise.

In any case, very close human contact with wild animals can be problematic, according to four experts consulted by the Sheetwho preferred not to identify themselves, and international conservation manuals.

Despite criticism, they also highlighted the role that Leandro and Anah have in the universe of one of the most emblematic —and threatened— animals in Brazil.

One of the positive points mentioned is the initiative to connect with rural landowners to prevent jaguars from being killed.

Leandro is also one of the many researchers of the species mentioned in the National Action Plan for the Conservation of the Jaguar. One of the specialists told the report that he had contact with a jaguar coming from the institute and attested that the animal was in good health and was well treated.

But what can be the problem with posting photos of caresses, games and contact between wild animals and humans?

One of the main criticisms regarding the current actions of Leandro and Anah’s institute would be an excessive exposure of the animals, the reason behind one of the fines imposed by IBAMA.

Due to the current facilities of viralization and even trivialization in social networks, according to the specialists interviewed by the Sheetimages of close proximity to wild animals can be understood as a dangerous message: that wild animals could be pets.

The institute countered, in a note to the Sheet, this view: “We believe that people are not so naive as to think that because they are seeing someone with a jaguar, a tapir, an anteater, a chimpanzee or an elephant, that means they can go into a pet store and buy a”.

In a video from a few months ago, Leandro said he treats animals with respect and that he does not have complete control over them, which, in his view, would rule out the idea that they would be pets.

The contact shown in the images can also raise a conservationist question about the possibility of releasing the animals. In general, the lesser the coexistence of wild cats — and several other species — with humans, the greater the chances of successful reintroduction to nature. This is what international experiences and the experts heard point out.

THE Sheetthe institute stated that, with the videos and photos published on social networks, the idea is to be able to put into practice the concept of “ambassadors of the species”, attract attention and convey emotion.

The population’s perspective, of course, can help in the financing and maintenance of conservation projects. Onça-Pintada, for example, in addition to making its bank details available for donations, monetizes its social networks — the latter results in just over R$ 10,000 per month, an amount that is far from the financial needs for maintaining the breeding, says the entity.

In any case, there are manuals and researches that deal with concern about the massive exposure of images of wild animals in contact with humans, citing, as one of the possible problems, the trafficking of specimens.

The fear is even included in the guidelines for good practices on images of non-human primates made by experts from the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), a respected international entity responsible for the list of threatened species in the world.

The guideline acknowledges that images can attract a lot of attention to a cause, but underscores how social media can easily detract from the context of what is presented. The guide, for example, recommends not posting photos with primates in the arms of caregivers — something that can be found on the networks of the Jaguar, which takes care of animals other than the institution’s symbol.

There is still the question, in the conservationist environment, about how harmful contact with humans can be to the well-being of a wild animal. One of the experts that the report heard argues that “tameness” can compromise the animal’s well-being.

Direct contact is aimed at calming wild animals, according to the institute, which says that “if you don’t condition them to be ‘calm’, they will suffer needlessly.”

Furthermore, according to experts consulted by the Sheetanother reason to “tame” a wild animal is to facilitate day-to-day handling, such as veterinary treatments.

The AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) care guide strongly discourages the presence of people in the same enclosure as jaguars older than six months.

The same manual points out that the most important component for dealing with these animals would be a stable long-term relationship between the jaguars and their keepers — something that, unquestionably, Leandro and his family maintain with the animals at the institute —, which can be done with positive reinforcements (such as giving treats as the animal performs desired actions), feeding, and even tactile actions.

For this, however, it is not necessarily necessary to “tame” a jaguar with very close and unprotected contacts. The facilitation of access can be achieved by what is known as operant conditioning – something that could be translated as a training of the big pussy – and that is being used more.

Instituto Onça-Pintada claims to have developed its own successful method. “Nowhere else in the world breeds jaguars like the IOP, and […] this is due to [sic] ‘operant conditioning’ that is performed here,” the entity said in a statement.

Those who have seen, at least a little, the day-to-day of the institute say that Leandro seems to have good perception and control over the animals he deals with. The biologist himself says, in a video, that hugs, kisses and games are reserved for a phase of the jaguar’s life, before sexual maturity, because this would be the behavior they would have with their own mothers.

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I have over 8 years of experience working in the news industry. I have worked as a reporter, editor, and now managing editor at 247 News Agency. I am responsible for the day-to-day operations of the news website and overseeing all of the content that is published. I also write a column for the website, covering mostly market news.

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