Monday, May 16, 2011

Stepping on a Jaguar’s Tail (almost)

Nest check on Sunday 8th May 2011 – Michelle and I set off on our nest check after a delicious pancake breakfast. All is going swimmingly as usual, a slight drizzle but we are in good spirits and then we find some very fresh looking Jag tracks. We follow them along while checking all of the Leatherback (and one Green) nests which we have worked in the last couple of weeks. We walk along talking about how far ahead the Jag may be, hoping that we might see it, wishing we had binoculars to see further ahead. The fresh set of tracks then becomes two sets. We are now tracking down a pair of Jaguars; one large and one smaller. We reach mile marker 15 1/8 and I look across to check the vegetation for flagging tapes, indicating a nest and I see, with its back towards us, a Jaguar lying in the sand. One of the most surreal things I think I have ever seen, I could not believe what I was seeing; my mouth must have been wide open. We were looking ahead to try and see the Jags in the distance; we could have walked right by it. All I could do at this point is stop and point, drawing Michelle’s attention to it. The Jag was unbelievably close, about 10m away, and it appeared to not know we were there. I throw all of my things to the ground and begin frantically searching in my backpack for my camera; the whole time though, looking at the Jag which still hadn’t seen us. I still hadn’t found my camera and Michelle couldn’t get hers out either, when another Jag appeared from the vegetation, it is the larger of the two, it looks at us before backing away. The Jag which is lying down turns its head, sees us and then runs away into the vegetation; just as I get my camera out. At this point I am jumping for joy, being one of the few up to this point who have not seen a Jag and I haven’t really stopped smiling since. Disappointingly we failed to get any pictures of the Jags this time, but we decided to photograph the scene extensively, the sand was damp and prints showed up very well. We could see where the Jags had been lying (see photo below), as well as the tracks where the Jag ran to the vegetation; with claws out. I am now keeping my camera on the outside of my bag, just in case…

David White