One Day in the Life of a Jaguar

Posted in South America | March 17, 2010 | Comment Now

Have you seen a jaguar rise from his sleep sensing danger? I had the fortune of seeing one when I was in Costa Rica. In my case, it was a young male jaguar rising from his deep rest. He stretches elegantly and leaves the place of his birth forever.

Shelter is not scarce here. There is plenty of deer, peccaries, and agoutis available for food. Our young male jaguar has also probably sensed the presence of females with whom he may possibly mate. However, the presence of an adult male jaguar serves as a deterrent. It is not likely that the older one would welcome rivals.

The young male jaguar is no longer under the influence of his protective mother. The scent of his mother no longer lingers in the air. There is no reason for him to cling to his home. He has to venture out.

But our young adventurer has taken the wrong path. Just a few miles in and he is at the border of the forest. In no time he is at the nearest coffee plantation. Our dashing young jaguar has only two weapons: instinct and necessity. He is always on the move, stopping at a nearby stream to quench his thirst. Still there is no prey in sight. Patches of shrubs, now, are his only shelter. Food seems a distant dream.

The cattle ranches are now within a striking distance. The smell of a calf is too tempting to ignore. He is no longer shy to tread in open areas. One snap of his powerful jaws and the calf is killed instantly. But will he be allowed to savor his meal?

He does savor his meal, but he cannot enjoy for long. He leaves behind tracks that the rancher picks up. Very soon, an entire battalion of dogs is accompanied by villagers. The search for the young hunter increases. The villagers are armed with deadly shotguns. And they do not refrain from shooting from a distance. The plethora of bullets overpowers our young hunter. He is blinded in one eye and his left foreleg is shattered. Can he survive?

He now stands crippled. He stands no chance of hunting for his meals. Calves are easy game and he does not hesitate. He smells danger and kills the dog as well. This time, however, the path he has chosen cannot be reversed. He is soon trapped by the villagers and dogs. Is there any possibility for compassion? On the contrary, he is killed mercilessly. They give familiar names to our dead cat: cattle killers, dog killers! But why this hatred for the cat species?

This slaughtering of the cat species is becoming a new phenomenon. Ranching, farming, and development are eating into the habitat of these wonderful species. Their natural prey has become so unnatural. I wish there was an alternative ending to this chilling tale.

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