Big Weather & Big Cats At Chan Chich Lodge

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is of interest because it is a pioneer in conservation in Belize–as Chan Chich Lodge is in its own way. But in writing about it Vicky Croke, for The Wild Life at WBUR (National Public Radio, Boston, USA), reminds a few of us of our time in Belize during Earl, and the aftermath during which jaguar sitings have been, and continue to be, inexplicably spectacular:

Jaguars Interrupted: Counting Big Cats After A Hurricane

Two months after Earl hit Belize, researchers at the world’s first jaguar reserve are still taking stock.

By Vicki Croke

This past summer, within days of gathering spectacular camera-trap footage of a female jaguar and her two tiny cubs sauntering through the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary in Belize, field scientists with Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, got the news that a tropical storm was forming and might just come their way.

As the predictions quickly grew dire, Dr. Bart Harmsen, Dr. Rebecca Foster, and their team, did what they could to prepare: In the sanctuary, they relocated their cat cameras out of areas that were likely to flood, and outside the park, where the researchers live, they set about securing houses.

Cockscomb-Basin-Wildlife-Sanctuary-REBECCA-FOSTER-PANTHERA.jpg

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary–in some ways a paradise for jaguars, who often live into “old age” here. Courtesy: Rebecca Foster/Panthera.

Earl, a massive category 1 hurricane, made landfall in Belize on Thursday, August 4—battering Belize City and causing destruction elsewhere—including the 190-square-mile jaguar reserve. The next day, when the storm had passed, the anxious jaguar researchers were told they wouldn’t be allowed back into the park until debris had been cleared from the entrance.

This left plenty of time to worry about several animals. There was that female and her vulnerable cubs—the tiniest the scientists had ever seen in their footage; a beautiful bruiser named Ben (officially M11-8); and many other jaguars—and pumas too— whose life stories had been written in camera trap footage, in the tracks left on the trails, and in some very rare face-to-face encounters with researchers.

Over 11 years, Panthera has been able to track 131 jaguars, largely through the thousands of camera trap images of jaguars in which cats can be identified by their distinguishing spot patterns. Some of the jaguars have even become pretty familiar. That’s in part because there’s time to get to know them. The cats here, in the world’s first jaguar reserve, seem to live a long time—regularly making it into what is considered old age for wild jaguars. Panthera reports that half the males in 2011 were older than 10, and one male in the park is now 14.

a-jaguar-passes-a-camera-panthera-ub-eri-belize-audubon-society

Individual jaguars can be identified by their distinguishing spot patterns. Courtesy: Panthera/UB ERI/Belize Audubon Society.

Over 11 years, Panthera has been able to track 131 jaguars, largely through the thousands of camera trap images of jaguars in which cats can be identified by their distinguishing spot patterns. Some of the jaguars have even become pretty familiar. That’s in part because there’s time to get to know them. The cats here, in the world’s first jaguar reserve, seem to live a long time—regularly making it into what is considered old age for wild jaguars. Panthera reports that half the males in 2011 were older than 10, and one male in the park is now 14.

For the researchers, the possibility of loss was very real. So that weekend, when they were given the all-clear, the Panthera team rushed back into the jungle to check cameras and search for signs of the cats…

 

Read the whole post here.

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