Thursday, November 10, 2011

Unforgettable Wildlife

It was a quiet morning on the daily nest check. Green Turtle nesting season is drawing to a close and the number of nests requiring our monitoring has dwindled to only a handful. Kevin and I left base at around 5:15 with the first grey light of morning just creeping onto the beach as we set out. The sun was rising on a clear day as we walked the three-mile stretch of beach and it promised to be another scorcher. We chatted as we walked and checked the nests, one or two of which had indeed hatched since the previous morning; tiny flipper tracks in the sand revealing the little hatchlings’ frenzied dash toward the sea. We also noticed an abundance of fresh jaguar tracks on many parts of the beach, indicating high levels of big cat activity close to our base.

We had reached the end of the survey area and were well on our way back when we had an incredible and unexpected encounter. Kevin was scanning the beach with his binoculars when all of a sudden “There’s a jag!!”. Looking into the distance, I could not see where he meant, thinking it must be some way off. “Look right here, by the bushes” he whispered, pointing. Sure enough, to my utter astonishment, there sat the very animal I had hardly dared hope to see. The jaguar can barely have been more than 100 metres from where we stood and was sitting in the shade of the vegetation where it bordered the beach. Powerful and majestic, and not in the least perturbed by our presence, he beheld us calmly for some time before casually getting up and strolling back into the forest. Then he was gone, leaving me with a feeling of excitement and disbelief, and an experience that I shall never forget.

-Leo, Intern