Sunday, April 15, 2012

Jag Mario Spotted

It was my first full day back after spending two weeks learning Spanish in Nicaragua, and I was scheduled to go on a nest check with Leo at 5am. As I had gotten out of the habit of waking up before dawn while I was away it was a bit of a struggle to get out of bed that morning, but as it turns out, well worth it. It was a beautiful day and I enjoyed watching the sun rise over the ocean. We came across a few new leatherback nests as well as an uncommon hawksbill track.

We reached the end of the survey but we had been told about a dead leatherback another mile up the beach. When we got close enough to see the turtle through binoculars it was covered in vultures but no sign of a jaguar. We were disappointed, but something made us keep going. We walked along the edge of the vegetation occasionally stopping to look. On the off chance that there was a jag we didn’t want to scare it off. When we were maybe a hundred meters away Leo suddenly stopped. “There’s a jag “, he whispered excitedly. I quickly scanned the area with my binoculars and sure enough, there it was. I couldn’t believe it.

The jaguar, who we later determined was Mario, didn’t seem to notice us so we decided to try to get a bit closer. We crept quickly along the vegetation line, stopping every so often to take some more pictures before daring to continue. I couldn’t believe how close we were getting. We finally stopped when we were about 30m away. At this point we were fairly certain that he was aware of our presence as he had looked straight in our direction a few times, but he didn’t seem to want to leave his meal. There’s something amazing, but also a bit unnerving about seeing a jaguar stare straight at you. He was beautiful. From this distance we could clearly see his face and the pattern of his coat. We watched him feed on the turtle, and even saw him lick his lips. We stood there completely transfixed for at least twenty minutes before deciding to leave the jaguar to his meal and return to base. As we walked away I couldn’t help looking back every few seconds until he was out of sight, still not quite able to believe what I had just seen. I couldn’t imagine a better way to start the new phase.

-Blakely, 6 Month Intern