Costa Rica’s Endangered Jaguars

Costa Rica

One of the largest of Central American, and Costa Rica’s largest, carnivores, an endangered species, it was once fairly common in coastal mangroves, lowland savannas, and wet and dry shrub lands and forest up to about 1000m elevation. But because its conspicuous tracks, the high value of its pelt, its reputation as a stock killer, and its vulnerability to hound pursuit and still hunting, this cat is now rare except in parts of large unhunted reserves. It occurs in Costa Rica on the Tortuguero, Santa Rosa, Corcovado and Rio Macho National Parks, and lower levels of Cordillera Talamanca.

Costa RicaJaguars are rarely seen in daylight, but occasionally one suns on a cliff or log. They scratch tree trunks, but its not sure that they urine-mark objects or make territorial scratches on the ground. They are fairly aquatic and easily swim rivers, small lakes, and straits between mangrove islets. They favor damp sites such as streambeds in gallery forests, where footprints often reveal jaguar’s presence, approximate size , and travels. At any season jaguars of any sex may roar at night.

Although jaguars seem to prefer peccaries as prey, they also take monkeys, agoutis, deer, birds, fish, lizard, turtles, and other animals. Mud tracks reveal feeding on dead fish, alligators, iguanas and any other carrion left by receding waters.

Jaguars seem not to avoid the scent of a man, and one may follow a man walking in a trail. Although unprovoked attacks on men are rare, in Panama a jaguar recently charged a man who was carrying a bag of trapped birds.

The season of births probably varies regionally. Gestation is about 3 months, and the usual litter is two. Apparently males take no part on the rising of the young, which may accompany the mother for a year. Females reach sexual maturity at about 3 years of age and do not breed in successive years if their young survive. The main threat to the remaining jaguars in Central America is the clearing of forest for crops and grazing. When roads penetrate a primitive zone, the jaguar and white-lipped peccary ( Tayassu pecari ) are the first mammals to disappear. Jaguars seem to be poor colonizers of cutover lands or new areas regardless of the abundance of prey there. Jaguars range from northern Mexico to northern Argentina. The puma has much greater ecological and geographic range and occurs along with jaguars throughout Costa Rica.

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