August 15, 2015
We had some new visitors this month: Ethan and Leticia, interns from the U.S., and Laura, from Aguascalientes. They came to help with the work we do on the Northern Jaguar Reserve and Viviendo con Felinos ranches. We began by visiting Bábaco. Our interns got to experience some of Bábaco’s fascinating landscapes, and we showed them how to program our motion-triggered cameras. Leticia did not have prior field experience, but she made up for it with a lot of enthusiasm to participate. Ethan told us that he had worked with wildlife before, specifically on a project with bighorn sheep. He was accustomed to walking in this type of rugged terrain.
After finishing our work at Bábaco, we left for La Ventana so that our companions could meet our team of vaqueros on the reserve – Laco, Laqui, and Braulio. They were also able to meet Laco’s wife, Dona Lupe, and his son Galo. That night, it began to rain around 10 p.m. and continued for quite a while. In the morning, Laco told us that we had received an inch of water. We hope that the rain continues because La Ventana’s well is nearly dry.
On the way to Los Pavos, we observed the natural beauty of the reserve. Our visitors were very happy to learn more about this special place. They spoke about the biodiversity and their interest in learning more of the sites. During our daily outings to check cameras, we showed them some feline tracks, scat, and scratchings. I also showed them the different types of vegetation and the medicinal plants of the region. At El Sauz, we saw an elegant trogon that landed on a branch very close to us. We only saw it for a few seconds because it flew away as quickly as it arrived. Saúl and Ethan then checked the cameras at Cajón los Pavos. Ethan really liked that site.
After returning from Los Pavos, we stayed at Dubaral to check cameras. We had some more rain, and our interns took advantage of this by having a bath with fresh water that came directly from the clouds. We cannot waste water given to us by nature when there is such a scarcity of it. The next day, Ethan and I got ready to check two of the farthest sites: Los Aguajes and Los Chinitos. This hike always takes seven hours round trip, but Ethan was in excellent physical shape and is accustomed to hiking in the mountains, so we saved an hour on the trip. Meanwhile, Saúl, Leticia, and Laura went to check cameras at El Burro. Later we all headed toward Babisal where we met up with Randy, our reserve manager.
Work days on the reserve can be tiring. The journeys are long, and the type of topography makes the hikes more exhausting. At the end of each day, all we want to do is rest. One of the longest trips we make to check cameras is to La Hielería. Although we weren’t planning on going there this month, Saúl and I decided that Ethan needed to see it. In the beginning, it is an endless climb up a mountain before it becomes level terrain, and finally we begin to descend. This site is one of the most beautiful on the reserve. It is always a delight to visit because it is a verdant oasis with tall trees, palms, and abundant water. When Ethan arrived, he described it just as I did, like an oasis. I was happy that the interns were able to experience this place and that they enjoyed it as much as we do.
The interns would return to town a few days before Saúl and I, as we finished our work on the Viviendo con Felinos ranches. Before they left, the interns were able to see a large number of deer at La Ventana and Las Cuevas. It is always easy to spot them at short distances while they also observe us. Their fear of humans seems to be slowly waning, which ensures more deer sightings.
Saúl and I later met with Uriel Villareal, the owner of El Saucito ranch, which is always a pleasure. He lets us use his horses to check cameras, and he always makes us laugh. Uriel is without question one of the ranchers with the best sense of humor!
Until next time,
Javier Valenzuela Amarillas has worked on the Northern Jaguar Reserve and Viviendo con Felinos ranches since 2012. As a jaguar guardian, he helps maintain an extensive network of motion-triggered cameras, inventory the ecological health of the land and water, and work with ranchers to support local wildlife.