Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Day of the Dead

As the Jalova base has been in turtle training this week, we have been doing some mile marker maintenance in preparation for the turtles’ arrival. The mile maintenance team alongside the jag walk team got a little treat this past Thursday, not only did they stumble across the first dead turtles of the season but they crossed paths with not one but two Jaguars. Sadly where there are Jags on the beach, there are dead turtles, this is a fact. Although it was extremely saddening to see the two green turtles and the leatherback dead, with the first dead green turtle being less than a mile from base it’s sighting proves just how close the jags are to Jalova and it is exciting to know that we do have such a healthy jaguar population living in Tortuguero National Park.
As part of the mile maintenance team, I was walking along the beach with shovel and a bucket of paint over my shoulder, soaking wet, wondering how it was that I pulled the short straw and had to walk the 15 odd miles and paint post, little did I know I was about to have an experience that few people ever get to have. I looked ahead to see a cloud of black vultures and what was unmistakably a Jag! It was a surreal experience for everyone, as we approached the jag for a closer look the jaguar was circling the dead leatherback turtle. Seeing the amazing almost golden colour of the jag was really something special. When both teams got together we then approached the leatherback, distressing as it was to see the turtle killed by the magnificent jaguar there is a little comfort taken in knowing that it was killed by an animal hunting to feed itself rather than seeing it killed by poachers. The jag tracks surrounding the turtle where not just of the adult jag responsible but also multiple jag cubs! Seeing that the jag cub tracks indicates that the cubs are being shown how to hunt and helps further GVI’s research on jaguar behavior.

As the mile maintenance team continued the preparation for the turtle season, the jag walk team charged on up the beach. Close to mile 7½ the jag team found their second green turtle nest, which sadly had no indication of the turtle returning to sea. As one of our volunteers, Agnes walked along the vegetation in search of the green turtle she surprisingly caught a jag in the act, screaming something in Swedish and the jaguar roared then slipped away into the forest.

It is amazingly gratifying to have seen one of the most elusive wild cats in the world, personally it is experiences like this that make living at Jalova, being far away from home, not getting any surf and eating porridge everyday so very worth it .

Written by Hayden J Relf.