On the prowl: Guarding the fierce felines of EARTH’s forests
GUÁCIMO, COSTA RICA, Feb. #, 2021 — Within EARTH University’s 920-hectare forest reserves, wild inhabitants include coati, deer, agouti, coyote, black-eared opossum, and four felines: ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi), cougar (Puma concolor), and jaguar (Panthera onca).
For the past five years, EARTH scientists and faculty have been leading ecological research in partnership with SINAC-MINAE, the conservation agency of Costa Rica’s Ministry of Environment and Energy. Motion-sensor cameras – installed throughout the University’s Escalera del Mono and El Tigre forest reserves – have been collecting a videographic record of all animal passersby.
Committed to big cats
Located in the humid tropics, EARTH’s Guácimo Campus constitutes an important biological corridor, connecting the Cordillera Central volcanic mountain range with the flatlands of Tortuguero. The large swaths of undisturbed virgin forest and the plentiful variety of prey found there make EARTH’s reserves an ideal habitat for jaguars and other big cats to feed, reproduce, and remain safe from poachers.
“Jaguars are an at-risk species, so hunting them – or any other wild species – is a crime under Wildlife Conservation Law No. 7317,” said José Joaquín Vargas Mora, head of wildlife at SINAC’s Tortuguero Conservation Area. “These cats are hunted for their hides and fangs or, many times, by farmers in retaliation for preying on livestock. To address that, SINAC and the nonprofit organization Panthera assembled a team of professionals who, via the 1192 telephone number, are ready to responsibly deal with any event of feline predation toward domestic animals.”
In November and December 2020, some of the trail camera footage went viral. The curious jaguar shown – an adult female, at least 2 years of age, according to the pattern of its spots – was born and raised within EARTH’s forests. Whenever she travels to the reserves’ periphery, it is possible she will see or hear human activity.
Respecting each other’s territory
“Because of our robust sustainability and conservation practices, wildlife sightings here are not uncommon,” said Arturo Condo, president of EARTH. “Despite being the world’s third-largest feline and found from northern Mexico all the way to Argentina, jaguars are known to avoid people. Their senses are much more developed than those of humans.”
EARTH follows a strict protocol for the protection of wildlife and the campus community. Teams of rangers patrol the area day and night to prevent poaching and other unethical activities. Additionally, all campus residents and visitors are educated about how to behave in the event of a feline sighting.
If ever you catch a glimpse of a wild jaguar, it is important to remain calm and never approach the animal, make sudden movements, or throw objects at it.
For more information about the abundant life within EARTH’s forests, click here.
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