Monday, September 26, 2011

While the volunteers are away, the cats will play!

It may be the weeks between ten week phases in Jalova, but the jaguars aren’t taking any holiday. In the last week we have seen a spate of dead turtles in our 3 mile turtle monitoring study area. What’s more, 2 of those bodies were found no more than 1/4 mile from base! This has made us think about how the activity has changed in the last weeks.

Since September 10th base has been somewhat quieter than usual as our regular volunteers have been away and our staff and intern team have continued our turtle monitoring work. Also, the week ending September 17th saw the BBC dismantle their filming structures from the Northern limit of our study area. Perhaps as our human impact on the beach has lowered, we have seen the jaguars become braver in their pursuit for food. Combine this with the fact that nesting activity has decreased as we approach the end of the green turtle season and the jags will have to work harder for their food.

Yesterday’s nest check saw the weeks third dead turtle appear within 20m of a week old body and this prompted Camera Trapping Project manager Benji to station cameras at the site. Evidence from the beach suggested that the killer cat preferred to use the site as an entry point to the beach as well as a den to drag its prey to.

The following morning Benji retrieved the cameras and with the dead turtle having moved we were all hopeful of images. And the cameras didn’t let us down as they gave us shots of a jaguar passing the location and turning to face the camera, possible as a noise or light caught its attention. Following inspection we can say that this jaguar was one that we had seen before, Luca. This is the fifth time that we have caught him on camera, the first being around one year ago making him a true resident of the area.

Rather than letting the cameras sit around on base we have had them out on one of the trails near base too. The South Boundary had provided us with evidence of Ocelot towards the end of phase 113 and so we have been looking to see if that was a chance encounter or if it was an area of preference for this smaller cat species. So it was good to see that on 18th September it passed by the same spot again and we caught it. The following picture is about as good as they come for Ocelot as these cats prefer to pass by very quickly.

So we have learnt that the cats are enjoying this down time around our Jalova site and we hope that we can look forward to some more camera trapping in this last week of interphase. Also as the new phase starts it will be prime time for the jaguars to return to kills and we will look to make the most of that opportunity to see if we have the same cats active as earlier this year.