12 Apr

Vital Evidence: A Jaguar Camera Trap Photo


Costa Rica, ‘the Rich Coast,’ is often rightly associated as a highly desired vacation hub, distinguished by its beautiful beaches, ecotourism operations and tropical jungles that are home to thousands of animal and plant species, including multiple healthy populations of the Americas’ largest cat – the jaguar.

The Barbilla-Destierro SubCorridor, located in the core of Costa Rica, is one area where these jaguar populations are currently thriving. Due to its central location, this SubCorridor forms a critical link for jaguars travelling in Costa Rica, and those moving throughout the Jaguar Corridor, which extends from Mexico, directly through Costa Rica to Argentina and preserves the genetic diversity of the species.

Jaguar Corridor Map

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As part of Panthera’s jaguar conservation efforts in this region, nine camera traps were placed in the Barbilla Corridor by field scientist, Daniela Araya, in December 2011 to study possible road crossing points for jaguars. The cameras can also detect the abundance of jaguar prey species, which can sometimes be overhunted by local communities. While one camera trap was stolen, Panthera’s Costa Rica team was thrilled to recently discover that one camera snapped Panthera’s first photo of a jaguar in a deforested area in the middle of the SubCorridor.

Watch a news clip on this story from Costa Rica Channel 11 News (En Español).

This photograph immediately made national news (see video clip above) and is particularly significant because of the location at which it was taken – along a gravel road just 2.7 kilometers (approximately 1 mile) from the site of a large dam project being developed in the heart of the Jaguar Corridor – the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity’s (ICE) Reventazón Hydroelectric Project. This road will be paved as part of the mitigation actions ICE will perform related to the hydroelectric project. Results of camera trapping, interviews, and track records will be shared with ICE representatives in the SubCorridor committee so that wildlife passage through the area can be maintained. While Panthera’s field scientists have previously found evidence of jaguars in other parts of the Barbilla-Destierro SubCorridor, this new photo of a male jaguar is the first visual proof that jaguars are using a non-forested area of the Corridor, close to the Reventazón dam project.

Panthera has been meeting with government officials and the electric company responsible for the dam, advising on monitoring activities and actions to mitigate the dam's impact on jaguars and their habitat, without hindering the economic development of the region.

Panthera’s Mesoamerica Jaguar Coordinator, Roberto Salom Pérez, explained that, “The presence of this jaguar validates the efforts of organizations, government agencies, universities and communities that have been working for over three years to ensure the connectivity of jaguars and their habitat, and to improve the quality of life for people living in and around the Barbilla-Destierro SubCorridor.” Mario Coto Hidalgo, the National Program Coordinator of Costa Rica’s National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC), also stated, “This type of research initiative is the fundamental key to coordinate with government institutions responsible for developing large-scale infrastructures that could decrease the chance of passage of the species or groups of wildlife.”

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Read a press release in Spanish from Costa Rica’s National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC).

Learn more about Panthera’s work in Costa Rica and other jaguar range states through the Jaguar Corridor Initiative.

Visit the Panthera Costa Rica website in Spanish.

Learn about the Felines in Costa Rican Archaeology: Past and Present exhibit held at the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum in San José, Costa Rica through September.