Jaguar Ambush: Facts

Learn more about jaguars

1. Owing to their incredible adaptability, pumas are the widest ranging land-living mammal in the Western hemisphere, taking up residence from Canada through the U.S. and Central America, all the way down to the southern tip of Chile.

 

2. Pumas hunt mainly at night, possessing highly sensitive night vision. Large pupils, a retina comprised mainly of rod cells and a well developed tapetum lucidium (a special layer that reflects light back into the eye chamber) all assist the eye in collecting light.

 

3. Among the big cats, jaguars are unique in that they frequently pierce the skull of prey in order to make a kill. Other species, such as the puma, target the neck of large prey and employ strangulation methods.

 

4. Like the leopard, pumas are able to exploit a large variety of habitats and take a range of prey sizes. On the other hand, jaguars fill a niche similar to tigers, strongly tied to well-watered, forested habitats, and are capable of taking very large prey.

 

5. Both pumas and jaguars are opportunistic hunters and may take a large variety of prey. However, unlike pumas, jaguars will sometimes feed on sea turtles which have come ashore to lay eggs. Their powerful bite is strong enough to break through smaller carapaces, but cannot penetrate the shell of an adult turtle without risking broken teeth.

 

6. Of the 7 species of sea turtle in the world, 5 can be found around the waters and on the coasts of Costa Rica. The country is sandwiched between two oceans, with hawksbill, green and leatherback turtles occurring on both coasts. Loggerhead turtles only occur on the Caribbean coast, while Olive Ridley turtles are unique to Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, which includes Santa Rosa National Park.

 

7. Baird’s tapir, known as macho de monte in Costa Rica, has undergone serious declines in the last 33 years, with up to 50% of the population disappearing. The most recent estimates put its population at 5000 individuals, of which 1000 live in Costa Rica. The species is categorized as Endangered by the IUCN Red List.



8. Ocelots are one of the best known small cats due to the striking patterns on their fur. Unfortunately for the species, this was also the reason why ocelots became one of the most exploited cats in the fur trade during the 1960’s and ‘70’s. At the height of this, an estimated 200,000 animals were killed each year, but thankfully new laws effectively ceased this slaughter in the 1980’s, and the species has since shown strong signs of recovery.



9. Ocelots today range in Central and South America. They may still be found as far north as Texas, but once extended all the way into Louisiana, Arkansas and Arizona. The species is extremely variable in appearance across its range, to the degree that patterns on one side of an individual do not match the other.



10. The margay is another small cat species with a similar appearance to the ocelot. It is an incredible climber, aided by an ability to rotate its hind feet by 180o. The margay is capable of running straight up and down trees in a manner similar to a squirrel, and may even hang from a branch by a single hind foot.



11. If it can hold on long enough, a vampire bat is capable of taking in up to 60% of its own body weight in blood from a prey species such as domestic cattle in just 30 minutes.



12. Some snake species, such as pit-vipers, have the ability to visualize the infrared radiation given off by warm-blooded prey species. Vampire bats are also thought to share this ability, possessing tiny heat sensitive pit-organs in their nose and a special structure in the brain which is similar to that of heat-sensing snakes.

 

13. Santa Rosa National Park was originally founded in 1971 in order to protect one of Costa Rica’s most historic sites. In 1856, the mercenaries of American filibuster William Walker were repelled by Costa Rican expeditionary forces in the Battle of Santa Rosa - a decisive victory against Walker’s plans to eventually conquer all of Central America.



14. Despite being in the Northern Hemisphere, Costa Ricans refer to the period of December to May as summer, and May to November as winter. This is because of the way that major wind patterns interact at different times of the year, sometimes blowing in with water absorbed over the Atlantic, resulting in a rainy ‘winter,’ or deflecting this to give a dry ‘summer.’



15. At 51,100 square km, Costa Rica is just under the size of West Virginia. In the 1970’s, only 3% of this land was protected from exploitation. Now, an incredible 25% of the country is dedicated to conservation.



16. The crew used a custom-made tower in the middle of the forest as a base for filming. It was constructed in 10 days from 6 ½ tons of steel, and stood 8 metres high. This created an optimal vantage point from which to string a heavy duty cable above the forest, enabling a special camera to stealthily traverse the canopy via remote control.



 

Discuss this article

Newsletter

Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address
Submit