June 20, 2011
This time we have a very special story. We found a female jaguar with her cub at the Northern Jaguar Reserve! This is the first time since the reserve was created that we have a photograph of a cub from a camera trap, and we are certain that these cats are breeding in the area that we protect. This is great news because it means that we are achieving our objectives and maintaining the reserve as a healthy ecosystem for the big cats. We already have pictures of bobcats, ocelots, and pumas with their cubs. And now we know that all felines are breeding at the reserve.
Here we are going to tell you the story of the cub’s mother “Cecilia,” a female jaguar that we have been following the trail of since early 2009. Probably, you will be eager to know the whole story… so this is it.
Our first pictures of this female are from February 2009, but we must confess that at first we thought it was a male because the images did not allow us to see the sex clearly. Because the first picture was in one of the neighboring ranches (Los Alisos) that has a collaborative agreement with us to protect wildlife, the name of the jaguar was decided on by the ranch owner, Ricardo Vázquez Paredes. When we asked him what name he wanted, he said to name it according to the saints. So the jaguar was named Cecilio, on behalf of San Cecilio who is celebrated on February 1, the date of Ricardo’s first jaguar photograph.
We continued our search for more jaguars on the neighboring ranches, and on December 27, 2009, our Feline Photo Project technician, Tania Gutiérrez Ramírez, found another photo of Cecilio at Los Alisos. This time we did not get a full picture, but with its unique pattern of spots, we could identify it as the same individual. This news made Ricardo Vázquez very proud, and he joked with us saying that Cecilio appears every year on his ranch.
On April 17, 2010, we learned of Cecilio again; this time at Dubaral and within the reserve. From this picture, we started to have doubts about the jaguar’s gender because the indicators to be sure if it is male or female were not very evident. But we didn’t change the name yet because we did have our doubts. In the same section of the reserve, we had more pictures in two different locations a month later on May 22 and 23.
(By this time, according to our recent calculations, she was mating with “Mayo” at Dubaral, the dominant male on the reserve at the time. We lost her trail during the dates that would correspond to the pregnancy period (gestation of jaguars is approximately 90 days) and the first months of lactation. Her home range may have been reduced as a result of pregnancy, and therefore we did not get to photograph her with the camera traps.)
On January 10, Cecilio reappeared at Babisal in an area known as El Fresnito. In this stream, we had seen earlier pictures of another female, Cholla. A month later, on February 12, now in Dubaral, we saw Cecilio again. But on this occasion, we were sure it was a female, so we changed the name to Cecilia.
Not yet having proof of her being a mother, we had strong suspicions earlier this spring. Cecilia was photographed at El Carricito on March 4 and 5, and in one of the photos there was a rabbit in her mouth. This was proof for us that she was bringing food to a cub. We wondered why Cecilia, a full-grown adult, carried the rabbit and had not eaten the small prey at the time she hunted it. So we expected to see the baby sooner or later.
Finally, there was the photo of Cecilia with her cub taken on February 25. However, we would not make this discovery until the end of May when we reviewed this camera.
Cameras record the date and hour the animals pass in front of them, but many times we look at the pictures several months later, as we have established routes over the reserve. For that reason, although the photo was taken in late February, we had not seen it. Finally, we went to check this point in Dubaral that we had not visited for several months. We were not very excited about going there because we had never obtained photos of jaguars in this location before, although it seemed like a good place for jaguars to visit. When we arrived at camp, after many hours of walking, we checked the memory card in the computer. One by one, we looked at the photos of many animals and several jaguars.
Suddenly, there it was – the first picture of a female jaguar with a baby! That was a very special moment for us. We were all very happy and laughing, and we kept looking at the photo again and again.
Getting this picture is a great incentive to continue doing our jobs. It also represents the successful efforts of all of us with the Northern Jaguar Project and Naturalia, as well as other allied organizations. These efforts are made possible by the participation of people like you. Help us keep fighting for the conservation of jaguars and nature.
We’ll see you next time; be ready for more and more news about jaguars.
– Carmina, Miguel, Daniela, Juan Pablo, and Laqui
Our jaguar guardians are Carmina Gutiérrez and Miguel Gómez Ramírez. Daniela Gutiérrez is our new Viviendo con Felinos field technician. Juan Pablo Gomez worked as an intern and field assistant for the school year that just ended. And Laqui Duarte is one of the Northern Jaguar Reserve’s two resident vaqueros.