Wildcats Monitoring Program: Playa Cativo’s Rainforest Reserve

Jaguar in the rainforest near Playa Cativo Lodge

Walking in a rainforest can be a thrilling experience, not only you get to feel the electric energy of the forest, but also, you get to see incredible wildlife, and when you are in a place where there is plenty of wildlife, it means that you are experiencing a healthy, thriving forest!

Costa Rica is home to six different wildcats’ species. In recent years, we have monitored the presence of individuals from five distinct species around Playa Cativo´s Rainforest Reserve and the Piedras Blancas National Park. Pumas, Ocelots, Margays and Jaguarundis have been spotted as well as recorded by our automatic trap cameras as part of this conservation program.

Our goal is to estimate the diversity and population of the felines of Playa Cativo´s Protected Reserve and the surrounding regions of this majestic National Park. Using trap cameras strategically positioned in different sections of our property, rainforest, and trails, we can monitor these wildcats’ activity. Some of these trap cameras have been donated by visitors and named after their donator; this way the information is shared on regular updates of the footage that are collected every month, in each of the cameras. It is a fantastic way to help understand behavioral patterns and stay remotely connected.

The evidence shows that there is a great, and exciting presence of healthy felines thriving in this protected region, with plenty of prey to hunt, from small rodents to iguanas, peccaries, and deer, which at the same time is a great indicator that the whole ecosystem in this rainforest is healthy and thriving as well! 

Pumas, Ocelots, Margays and Jaguarundis are recorded often, the biggest of them all are the jaguars (Panthera onca), and they have only been recorded on rare occasions. But why are they so hard to observe and research?

Due to various threats, all wildcat species are severely endangered; Jaguars are the biggest felines that inhabit the Piedras Blancas National Park and other regions of Costa Rica. The last photographic report in this specific area of Piedras Blancas was in 2017, near the river mouth of Rio Esquinas. Neighbors of the national park still talk about the Jaguar and its presence today; that is why researchers know about them. But still don't know what their population density is and what is their actual health condition is in this area

Some of the main threats that the Jaguars and other wildcat species face are:

Poaching or hunting from furtive hunters: this makes jaguars to limit prey on domestic animals, near farms, towns, or humans; hence it makes them vulnerable.

Rainforest Fragmentation or habitat loss: jaguars are naturally the rainforest top predators, when their numbers decrease or disappear, it causes an unbalance of the eco system, since they control the population of small and bigger herbivores, and their absence has devastating and negative effects on the dynamics of the rainforest ecosystems.

The limitations of biological connectivity or biological corridors around Osa Peninsula and Golfo Dulce areas, restricts their genetic diversity and their reproduction success; hence the number of individuals drops, as they need wider territories to thrive

A very viable strategy that neighbors, farmers and Lodges such as Playa Cativo Eco Lodge are already pioneering as part of their conservation efforts, and with the help of NGOs, biologists, and researchers is to create and protect more biological corridors that connect the main protected areas such as Corcovado National Park, Golfo Dulce and Piedras Blancas National Park, so that jaguars and other wildcats are able to roam and cover the totality of their ecological niche in the Southern Pacific of Costa Rica.

Guests can be part of this program, by donating a trap camera that will be used to monitor the activity, population and living patterns of the felines in this region. These cameras are regularly named after the person who donates them; they'll be receiving footage and material firsthand as part of the program. This will help our researchers get a better understanding and look for ways to protect them!

Let us know If you wish to be part.

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