Close encounters with jaguars are an increasingly rare occurrence in Costa Rica. Deforestation caused by timber enterprises and developers is shrinking Costa Rica's remaining pockets of primary forest at an alarming rate, even in ´protected' areas.
Normal population growth coupled with the flood of foreign residents is causing a constant demand for more housing. Developers seldom consider protecting wildlife corridors when planning housing projects. Subsequently, areas of natural forest are shrinking rapidly in Costa Rica.
These factors, and the sad fact that locals continue to poach wildlife (even and especially in protected areas) presents a bleak outlook for the future of the jaguar in Costa Rica and Central America.
Poaching eliminates the jaguar's natural prey (peccary, armadillo, tepezquintle, deer, etc. ), forcing them to often take domestic animals (calves, goats, dogs, etc.). Locals traditionally retaliate by killing all wild cats on sight.
Sadly, it's probable that the jaguar will be found only in zoos in the near future. The Rainforest Alliance estimates that there remain only perhaps a total of 15,000 jaguars in the wilds of Central AND South America (2006).
The range needed for a single solitary male is extensive. A jaguar on the hunt can cover up to 60 miles (100 kilometers) in one night.
It's a geographical impossibility for jaguars to avoid encounters with civilization.
Simón's close encounter with a Jaguar
In 1993 cattlemen all over our region (from Paquera to Jicaral ) were suffering the loss of calves to a very large, very old jaguar. Fatigued and weary, he could no longer procure food by chasing deer. So he took to taking calves.
One day in March of 1994 Simón was on horseback in the hills above Rio Lajas, Cabuya. He came upon a desperate scene. A mother deer was running in circles around 'Grand-Daddy Tiger', bleating her heart out to draw his attention away from the newborn baby deer hidden in the dry leaves within the circle. GrandDaddy was snuffling the ground and nearing the baby's hiding place, totally ignoring the mother deer circling him. Simón slowly slipped off the horse, squatted down, and began whistling a high tone.
Wildcats and other wildlife have very sensitive hearing. Whistling causes them discomfort. So GrandDaddy slowly sauntered away, allowing Simón to rescue the baby deer. GrandDaddy was 2 meters long (6 feet) NOT counting his tail. Awesome !!!!
Later that year, the cattlemen managed to kill him.
In the past year there have been several jaguars spotted in our region of the peninsula. Sightings have occurred in Cabuya, Delicias, Rio Negro, and Manzanillo. A mother with two young was seen in Delicias.
If you are ever confronted with a wild animal, follow these suggestions :
- Chill your vibe. Be cool and calm, be still. All animals can smell fear, and might react to it.
- Make yourself smaller, less threatening. Squat down and be quiet. Don't wave your arms or shout.
- If you fear an attack, whistle a high tone. If you can't whistle, carry a whistle with you during your treks into the bush.
The only hope for wildcats' survival in the wild is an urgently needed adjustment in humanity's attitude towards them. We must cultivate tolerance and respect for all wildlife.
At Rainsong, Conservation Education and Reforestation are priorities. If you would like to become involved, send us an email.
Mary Lynn Perry at Rainsong, www.rainsongsanctuary.com,
“The Earth does not belong to us.
We belong to the Earth”. Chief Seattle
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