Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Amazing what you can infer from watching a big cat grab a passing snack.
Climate-Change-Induced Conflict? Rare Footage Captured of Jaguar Killing Ocelot at Waterhole
By WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY JANUARY 6, 2021
In what may be a sign of climate-change-induced conflict, researchers have captured rare photographic evidence of a jaguar killing another predatory wild cat at an isolated waterhole in Guatemala.
In the footage, a male jaguar arrives near the waterhole and apparently lies in wait for an hour. It lets a potentially dangerous prey animal, a large tapir, pass by, but when the ocelot stops to drink, the jaguar pounces and carries off the smaller predator.
“Although these predator-on-predator interactions may be rare, there may be certain instances when they become more prevalent, and one of those could be over contested water resources,” said Daniel Thornton, a WSU assistant professor and co-author on the paper. “People don’t often think of tropical systems as being dry, but in many parts of the world, tropical rains are quite seasonal, and with climate change, some of these tropical ecosystems are expected to become even more seasonal. The more isolated and rare water resources become, the more they’re going to become hotspots of activity.”
While some research has noted signs of ocelot in jaguar feces, until now, no known images have been captured of a jaguar directly killing an ocelot.
“We have evidence that many things are happening related to climate change, but we might not be aware of every detail, of every consequence,” said Lucy Perera-Romero, a WSU doctoral student and lead author on the study. “For example, in these beautiful, green forests, we may not be aware that water flow is a serious issue. It could be another source of mortality—apart from deforestation, from hunting, and from everything else that we do.”
I mean, it could have been a jaguar driven to desperation by the ravages of climate change. Or it could have been a hungry big cat getting tired of waiting for a snack, grabbing the first small animal unlucky enough to pass too near.