Big Cats, WWF & The Guardian’s Coverage

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A jaguar captured by a camera trap on the island. The WWF researchers plan to set more traps in 2020. Photograph: WWF Brazil

Jaguar and other wild cats, big and small, have been a topic of interest on this platform since we began back in 2011. We have also featured many stories where WWF is the hero, carrying out important work that needs support. Phoebe Weston somehow escaped our attention until now, so special thanks to the Guardian for maintaining their commitment to quality coverage of nature and environmental issues, which I depend on for my daily exercise in awareness:

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A jaguar resting on a tree on Maracá-Jipioca. The WWF hopes to collar two more cats next year.
Photograph: André Dib/WWF Brazil

A thriving population of jaguars living on a small, unspoilt island off the coast of the Brazilian Amazon has learned to catch fish in the sea to survive, conservationists have found.

The Maracá-Jipioca Ecological Station island reserve, three miles off the northern state of Amapá, acts as a nursery for jaguars, according to WWF researchers who have collared three cats and set up 70 camera traps on the remote jungle island.

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A jaguar caught on camera with a fish in its mouth. Photograph: WWF Brazil

Although jaguars have previously been spotted catching fish in Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands, this is believed to be the first evidence the elusive creatures have been jumping in the sea to catch prey.

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A three-toed sloth, a flock of flamingos, and a toco toucan, all inhabitants of the Maracá-Jipioca Ecological Station reserve. Photograph: André Dib/WWF Brazil

“This is the first time that behaviour has been spotted in the Amazon,” said Marcelo Oliveira, senior programme officer at WWF Brazil, who is leading the NGO’s first jaguar-collaring research. “On the way [past the camera], the jaguar was dry and on the way back it was wet and had a moving fish in its mouth.” He believes a big proportion of their diet is likely to be fish.

Oliveira said the jaguars have two fishing techniques – one is to wait for the tide to come in and to catch fish in the ponds that form among the mangroves, the other is to jump into the sea. “I’m not aware of any other jaguar population that eats so much fish – it’s very unusual,” he added.

The 600 sq km (230 sq mile) island – which is protected by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – has no human residents and animals have little contact with people. It has a diverse landscape of tropical forests, flooded grasslands, dense coastal mangroves and mudflats.

It is also a stop-off point for a number of migratory birds, including American flamingos, osprey and cuckoos. Fishermen say they have seen jaguars – as well as deer, anteaters and buffalo – swimming between the island and mainland.

There are 27 jaguars on the island and five to six cats per 100 sq km in some parts. Normally only two to five jaguars would share a territory of this size. The island’s jaguars are believed to hunt deer, buffalo, lizards and monkeys, but a plentiful supply of fish could be the secret to their success, researchers say.

Iranildo Coutinho, head of the ecological station on the island, describes it as a “kind of nursery or sanctuary” for jaguars because it may be fuelling populations on the mainland. “The fishermen often say that the island produces jaguars. It is the only coastal island along the coast of the Amazon and this is why it holds very important samples of fauna and coastal vegetation that are very well preserved and act almost like a live laboratory,” he said…

Read the whole article here.

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