Saturday, October 12, 2013

Staff Voice: New Methods for Capturing Jaguar Behaviour

Written by – Sateesh Venkatesh, Field Staff Member

Jaguars are among the most majestic big cats in the world although they are also among the most cryptic. On Tortugeuro beach we see signs of Jaguars almost every day but often never see the animals in person. But due to the revolution of camera trapping we can still collect value presence and behavioral data on the animals. Since 2010 GVI has been camera trapping along the beach and in the forest and over this time we have developed and altered our techniques. We see Jaguars in the forest and returning to kills but the gap in between these two times we have no records. In order to fill this gap we wanted to find a way to have a camera on the beach that can capture new hunting behaviors. In 2012 we thought of the idea to hide a camera in a log in the middle of the beach but could not figure out how to possibly get the camera in the log.
Armando using his chainsaw skills to carve a perfect camera-shaped hole in this piece of driftwood

         The solution finally came in the form of Armando, a local who works on the nearby coconut plantation, and a chainsaw. With some expert delicate work with a large power tool Armando made a perfect camera-sized hole in large log. We started with the log placed on the beach at Mile 16 & 4/8 in the middle of the beach looking out toward the water. After a week set up in this location the only images we captured were our staff and volunteers patrolling for turtles in the night and the ocean slowly moving closer. As a result we decided to move our log, with the help of Minor the ranger, to a more active area of the beach at Mile 15. So far here we have captured three Jaguars passing by the camera and an Ocelot. If the camera continues to work and show successful results the hope is to set up more stations along the beach. The ultimate goal of being able to capture hunting behavior is still a possibility that we hope to achieve. 

The camera trap all set up and ready to record any comings and goings on the beach.