Hidden cameras have captured rare photographic evidence of a jaguar killing another wild cat around an isolated water hole in Guatemala, which could be a sign of the dramatic effect of climate change on wild ecosystems.
In the images, a male jaguar can be seen near a water hole where it apparently lurked for an hour. The cat lets a possible prey pass, a large tapir, but when the ocelot stops to drink, the jaguar pounces and takes the smallest predator into its jaws.
The recording was captured by ecologists from Washington State University and the Wildlife Conservation Society in the Maya Biosphere Reserve in March 2019, the tropical forest drought year.
What bad luck for this thirsty ocelot!— Lucy Perera-Romero (@LPereraR) January 5, 2021
In this Natural History Field Note published in @Biotropica, we provide photographic evidence of a rare intraguild killing event by a jaguar on an ocelot in Northern Guatemala. @MSEC_WSU @garca_rony @WCS_Mesoamerica
“These dramatic hidden camera images clearly show the fierce competition wildlife faces for precious resources such as water,” says Rony García-Anleu, of the Society for the Conservation of Wildlife of Guatemala and co-author of the study, published in the journal Biotropica.
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“Unfortunately, climate change and associated droughts are projected to worsen, which means difficult times ahead for wildlife that depend on wells for their survival,” he added.
While some investigations have noted ocelot traces in jaguar feces, so far no known images of a deadly encounter involving these animals have been captured.
“A lot is happening”
Researchers had placed cameras at 42 water wells in the area in 2018 and 2019. In the 2019 dry season, only 21 of them had water. In this same remote location, featured in the recording, the scientists also recorded a fight between two jaguars and a jaguar trying to attack a young tapir. Additionally, seven different jaguars frequented this water hole, which is unusual for a species that normally avoids its peers and clings to its own territory.
“We have evidence that a lot of things are happening related to climate change , but we may not be aware of every detail, every consequence,” says Lucy Perera-Romero, a WSU doctoral student and the study’s lead author.
“For example, in these beautiful green forests, we may not be aware that water flow is a serious problem. It could be another source of mortality in addition to deforestation, hunting and everything else we do,” the scientist added.