Thursday, January 5, 2012

Jaguar Camera Traps: A Tale of Jungle Paparazzi

A Jaguar smelling our scent station

Ok, so we’re not selling these pictures to the tabloids, but we easily could because this phase was absolutely outstanding for our Jaguar camera-trapping project. We never really know how successful a given camera trap will be because the Jaguar(s) have to use that specific path and also stroll by slowly enough for the camera to catch a clear shot, and both are things we have only limited control over. Nonetheless, we had a huge amount of luck this last phase of 2011!

Our cameras spent a total of 106 nights out on the trails, active and waiting for animals. Throughout these nights, the cameras took a huge amount of pictures, yielding 86 pictures of 6 different Jaguars. Not only is this a very high number, it also was enough material to discover several key things. Perhaps most importantly, 2 new Jaguars were identified, bringing the total number of different individuals that GVI is aware of to 9. This is quite a large increase for 1 phase and is extremely useful information. Additionally, we had 11 recaptures, meaning that we’re now able to know a lot more about how far they move from day to day and even within a single night, and also which ones come back to this area the most. One individual, referred to as Luca by GVI, was captured a total of 6 times, giving us very insightful data into his behavior and activities.

We decided to try the video-capture feature of our cameras this phase, something that we had tried before but experienced frustrating and disappointing results over and over. However, we had amazing luck, and captured 11 videos with incredible clarity (see several posts ago for an awesome clip!) One thing that helped this work was the use of “scent stations,” something Benji, our Jaguar project leader, learned from Panthera. The cologne Calvin Klein: Obsession was sprayed onto a rag and stuck to a stick to attract Jaguars. It sounds ridiculous but it actually works! We captured several good videos of Jaguars not only stopping to smell it but pawing at it, rubbing their face and neck in it, and overall clearly being attracted to it!

Aside from the spectacular Jaguar footage, we also captured various pictures of other animals that happened to wander past such as Deer, Great Curassow (a big bird), an Agouti with babies, and even an Ocelot! Needless to say, this was a fantastic phase for our Jaguar camera-trapping project.

-Kevin, Expedition Field Staff