Emma Harrison1, Sebastian Troëng1, and Mark Fletcher2
1 Caribbean Conservation Corporation, Apartado Postal 246-2050, San Pedro, Costa Rica
2 BBC Natural History Unit, Bristol, UK
Although jaguars (Panthera onca) have been observed on the beach at Tortuguero since the 1950’s, the incidence of green turtle predation remained negligible until relatively recently, with just two documented cases in the 1980’s. In the late 1990’s, however, a substantial increase in jaguar predation was noted, from four in 1997, to at least 22 in 1999.
This presentation describes jaguar feeding behavior, presents data on jaguar predation of green turtles from 2000 – 2004 and reviews the impacts of jaguar predation on the Tortuguero green turtle population. A remote video camera-trap was used to record jaguars feeding on recently predated turtles. One hour of close-up footage was subsequently analyzed to elucidate aspects of jaguar feeding behavior. Data on the number of turtles killed by jaguars were collected opportunistically during track surveys of the 30 km of nesting beach. A minimum of 28-97 green turtles were killed annually, suggesting a continuing increase in jaguar predation from previous years. Incidental jaguar sightings on the beach were also recorded and the frequency of jaguar observations increased over the study period.
Although the data indicate an increase in jaguar predation on green turtles in the last 5 years, if it remains at current levels it is unlikely to have a great impact on the green turtle population. However, this study highlights the need for a more comprehensive investigation of this intriguing interaction between two endangered species at Tortuguero.
Abstract of paper presented at 25th International Symposium, 2005