Jaguar’s Surprise Island Visit Caught on Film

May 13, 2009 05:30 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
A discreet, strategic camera on Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal caught the first ever image of a jaguar there, an example of the increasingly positive influence of technology on conservation.

Jaguar Reaches Unlikely Destination

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute researchers placed hidden cameras known as “camera traps” on the island to monitor other mammals residing there, but they weren't expecting to see the rare cat. Barro Colorado, a tropical island located approximately 200 yards from mainland Panama, has been heavily researched and has received much attention from conservationists. Until now, though, a jaguar has never been captured on film there, reported EcoWorldly.

According to the publication, it's not surprising that the jaguar was able to swim the distance to the island, but the fact that the animal was spotted in this particular area is of great interest. The find reinforces the effectiveness of camera traps as conservation tools; the cameras have also been successfully implemented in Peru, Ecuador and Mexico recently.
The institute has maintained a facility at the Barro Colorado Nature Monument since 1946, drawing 200 scientists annually to study the island ecology. The use of camera traps seems to be a crucial development in the organization's conservation efforts.

Jonathan Hoekstra of The Nature Conservancy expands on the use of technology for conservation efforts. He sees two main draws: using video to inspire peoples’ interest in ecosystems around the globe, and bringing technologies such as cell phones and the Internet to developing countries in order to empower “local conservationists.”

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Background: Using camera traps for conservation

In 2009, there have already been camera trap success stories from Indonesia and Ecuador, say researchers.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has teamed with the International Rhino Foundation, Asian Rhino Project, Yayasan Badak Indonesia and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for an Indonesian Javan rhino conservation project. The initiative involves strategic placement of camera traps on southwestern Java.

The camera footage has already resulted in “a wealth of new information on these elusive animals,” according to the WWF, revealing males and females sharing territory and previously unseen rhino aggression toward other species.

Meanwhile, in Ecuador's Amazon rain forests, camera traps that are “triggered by body heat” have caught images of American jaguars for the Wildlife Conservation Society, according to The Nature Files blog. In about one year, the cameras have taken 75 photos.

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