Climate change-caused conflict? Rare videos of a jaguar at a watering hole killing an ocelot


Researchers have recorded unusual photographic evidence of a jaguar killing another predatory cat at a remote waterhole in Guatemala, in a potential indication of violence exacerbated by climate change.

A male jaguar comes close to the waterhole in the video and is apparently waiting for an hour.

He allows a potentially dangerous prey animal, a big tapir, to walk by, but the jaguar pounces and catches the smaller predator when the ocelot stops drinking.

The case, detailed in a recent study published in the journal Biotropica, was documented by wildlife ecologists from Washington State University and the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Maya Biosphere Reserve in March 2019, a dry month in a drought year for tropical forests.

“Although these predator-versus-predator interactions are rare, there may be certain instances where they occur more frequently, and one of those could be for contested water resources,”Although these predator-to-predator interactions are rare, there may be some situations where they occur more often, and one of those may be for contested water resources. People do not always think of tropical systems as being dry, but tropical rainfall is fairly seasonal in many parts of the world, and some of these tropical ecosystems are likely to become even more seasonal with climate change.

The more isolated and unusual events of water become, the more hotspots of activity they become.

Rare video of a male jaguar killing an ocelot, another predatory wild cat, was filmed by researchers at an isolated waterhole in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve.

Credit: University of the State of Washington
Small animals such as armadillos or peccaries are usually preyed upon by jaguars, which can weigh more than 200 pounds. Ocelots, also carnivores, weigh around 18 to 44 pounds and are smaller than their larger relatives, and their patterns of behavior overlap with jaguars, especially at dusk.

Although some study has found signs of ocelot in droppings of jaguars, to date there are no confirmed photographs showing a jaguar killing an ocelot directly.

Rony García-Anleu of the WCS program in Guatemala and co-author of the report, said: “These dramatic camera trap images clearly show the fierce competition wildlife face for valuable resources such as water,” “Unfortunately, climate change and associated droughts are predicted to worsen, which means tough times ahead for wildlife that depend on water points for survival.”

In 2018 and 2019, the researchers put cameras at 42 waterholes in the field.

Just 21 had water in the 2019 dry season, and none of them were within 10 km (6.2 miles) of this unique waterhole.

The scientists also reported a battle at the same remote site between two jaguars and a jaguar attempting to attack a young tapir.

They also noticed that this waterhole was frequented by seven different jaguars, which is rare for a species that usually avoids its own kind and sticks to its own territory.

As part of a larger monitoring project examining the distribution of animals across the landscape in northern Guatemala, particularly in relation to human pressures, jaguar-tapir kills were reported.

This waterhole, ironically, was one that was far from any human culture, but that did not mean that human activity was inherently untouched.

Lucy Perera-Romero, a WSU doctoral student and lead author of the report, said, “We have evidence that many things are happening related to climate change, but we may not be aware of every detail and consequence,” For instance, we can not realize that water flow is a serious issue in these beautiful, green forests.

Along with deforestation, hunting and everything else we do, it may be another cause of mortality.

The Maya Forest is one of the five Great Forests of Mesoamerica, stretching from Mexico to Colombia, occupying an area three times the size of Switzerland.

The 5 Great Forests are all cross-border and represent the most important bastions for jaguars and other wildlife in Mesoamerica, offering services for five million people, such as carbon sequestration, clean water, and food security.

Lucy Perera-Romero, Rony Garcia-Anleu, Roan Balas McNab, and Daniel H. Reference, “When waterholes are enlivened, rare interactions thrive: Photographic evidence of a jaguar (Panthera onca) killing an ocelot (Leopardus pardalis)”

Thornton, 28 December 2020, 10.1111/btp.1291616, Biotropica.DOI:


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