Sunday, January 1, 2012

Turtles Done Nesting, Jaguars Done Feasting, People Done Walking

Jaguar tracks on Tortuguero beach

Our GVI-Jalova Biological Station in Tortuguero National Park helps to provide field data on a variety of different conservation areas, but a select few stand out because of scarcity of such data collection around the world. Perhaps the best example of this is the jaguar predation of sea turtles that is witnessed every year on the beaches of Tortuguero. The sheer number of jaguars identified, along with the fact that the predation of sea turtles is quite a new phenomenon, makes this project particularly important and exciting. This is why we walked a total of 123 miles this phase alone, recording information on this topic.

We were able to conduct 9 “Jag Walks” over the phase, each one beginning at our base in Jalova at the south end of the park and ending in the town of Tortuguero at the north end of the park. 3 Jaguars were actually seen by participants during these walks, and jaguar footprints were seen on every walk. In fact, the footprints were found in nearly every part of the 15-mile section and many of the subsections had more than one individual that had walked there the previous night. Even though we’ve been here for almost 2 years, the prevalence of Jaguars still amazes us.

The beginning of the phase had quite a high number of jaguar-predated Sea Turtles, with 48 being found in total (all of them Green Sea Turtles). As the turtle nesting season slowed down, so did the amount of predated turtles. We still made some good discoveries though, even as the turtles became more and more rare. We have been finding quite a lot of scat samples on the beach, which is a rare place to find Jaguar scat. Some have included bones and hair of various animals, and one even contained sea turtle hatchlings, something never before documented. In the New Year we are looking to work with an organization called Panthera which will help us tremendously in analyzing these samples.

As the months go by, we continue to learn more and more about the jaguar predation of sea turtles, and this phase didn’t disappoint in the least for this research.

-Kevin, Expedition Field Staff