Digital cameras placed in Bolivia’s Madidi National Park caught nineteen wild jaguars in images snapped very recently. Nine hundred and seventy-five photos were taken by the remote cameras, which use motion detectors to trigger image capture. It was a record for the most jaguars ever captured in a single remote camera survey in Bolivia. Wildlife Conservation Society researchers set up the cameras and later identified the jaguars from photos as individuals, by their unique spot patterns. (This type of identification is similar to the matching done of whale photographs, because each whale also has unique markings.)
“We’re excited about the prospect of using these images to find out more about this elusive cat and its ecological needs.The data gleaned from these images provide insights into the lives of individual jaguars and will help us generate a density estimate for the area,” said WCS conservationist Dr. Robert Wallace. (Source:Wildlife Conservation Society)
Digital photographs are better than film, because it is possible to zoom in and observe even more detail, easily copy them, and use in new media. It appears currently just two of the jaguar images were released from the over nine hundred.
Jaguars are believed to be declining in numbers due to habitat loss decrease in their prey, and poaching. Their conservation status is Near Threatened. They almost never attack humans and they have never been documented to hunt humans, like some tigers in India. That might be because they tend to be reclusive, but it is likely their much smaller size is also a reason. They typically weigh about 125 pounds, but some weighing 300 have been documented. Jaguars prefer to hunt and eat large ungulates, and are nocturnal. Their jaws are exceptionally strong; their bite can pierce skulls and even turtle shells. Jaguars are apex predators and a keystone species, meaning their presence in an ecosystem helps keep it in balance. If jaguars were removed, the ecosystem could get very out of balance as their prey might overeat important plants and cause havoc.
Many jaguars live in the Amazon basin, so their fate is tied to conservation of its’ forests. Others live in Mexico, and Central America. They have been wiped out in the United States, except for the very occasional sighting.
Image Credits: Wildlife Conservation Society