Thursday, May 31, 2012

[Mammalogy • 2012] Jaguar Panthera onca predation of marine turtles: conflict between flagship species in Tortuguero, Costa Rica


Jaguar with its marine turtle prey. Photo by: Benjamin Barca.


Abstract
Predation can be an important driver of population dynamics but can also pose a dilemma to conservation managers if the species interacting are of conservation concern or have a high public profile. For 5 years we conducted regular transect surveys to monitor the spatial and temporal patterns of predation of adult marine turtles by jaguars Panthera onca in Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica. Predation occurs throughout the study site on Tortuguero Beach although at lower rates at the northern and southern ends, probably because of increased human presence in these areas. There was a marked increase in predation, from an average of < 2 turtles predated per survey in the first season to > 5 predated per survey in the last, with 676 jaguar-predated marine turtles recorded during the study period. With a minimum of 189 individuals predated in the last season, predation of adult turtles has now reached a magnitude never before recorded in a marine turtle rookery. Although the nesting population of marine turtles in Tortuguero is one of the largest in the world and suffers from both direct and indirect anthropogenic pressures, the increase in predation by jaguars makes this ecological interaction relevant to the management of both the jaguar and marine turtle populations. The situation could lead to a potential conflict in conservation strategies that, given the flagship role of the species involved, will need to be addressed both in the context of species management and conservation marketing.

Keywords: Caribbean; Chelonia mydas; Dermochelys coriacea; diet; green turtle; jaguar; leatherback turtle; marine turtle; Panthera onca

On the top left, green turtle Chelonia mydas - top right leatherback turtle, Dermochelys coriacea, with typical signs of jaguar, Panthera onca, predation, and, below, camera-trap photographs of jaguars feeding on green turtles; All photographs are © and credited to GVI, Costa Rica

Jaguar with its marine turtle prey. Photo by: Benjamin Barca.


A camera trap catches jaguars feeding on a sea turtle at night when the fateful encounter occurs. Photo courtesy of: Diogo Veríssimo.

Green marine turtle corpse after being dragged in from the beach in Suriname. By the next day the jaguar had dragged it into the forest seen in the back. Photo by: Jeremy Hance.

Green marine turtle corpse after being preyed on by a jaguar in Suriname. Photo by: Jeremy Hance.


Jaguar Panthera onca predation of marine turtles: conflict between flagship species in Tortuguero, Costa Rica: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0030605311001487
Oryx article http://bit.ly/K6CBpn (freely available to download for a few days!) features in Independent http://ind.pn/JIPrYz

Jaguar v. sea turtle: when land and marine conservation icons collide: http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0516-hance-jaguars-sea-turtles.html

Jaguars preying on green sea turtles creates conservation headache in Costa Rica

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