Evening falls, and a turtle breaches the waves, placing her flippers in front of her in preparation for the painstaking journey. Her willpower carries up to 200 kilograms of reptilian weight to the vegetation, where she begins to dig. And, minutes later, a predator ends her long and stoic life with a few quick swipes.
We had a general idea of where the carcass lay, but we also knew it had been dragged deep into the jungle, and anything deep into the jungle is a challenge to locate. Robyn searched the shrubbery in vain for a solid indication. When we had just about run out of patience (remember, we’d been walking on the beach for five miles already, and were barely a third the way through), Robyn spotted the pink tape left by the team who had set up the camera a few days before. She unsheathed her machete and after a lasting breath of fresh air, plunged into the vegetation. The rest of us followed.
After some ambling, backtracking, cursing and a certain rotting scent, we found the camera. The previous group had meticulously faced it at the carcass with enough room around it to capture whatever else might appear in the area. And, sure enough, the carcass was a fair distance away. We rejoiced at what would surely be a fantastic series of videos, and then walked over to the empty shell.
Ceci, one of our jaguars, feeding from the kill.
I had seen dozens of shells from the past few years scattered down the edge of the beach, but seeing those was like seeing shed snake skin or abandoned chrysalis. Laying eyes on the “first kill of the season” incited a different sensation.
A second as yet unidentified jaguar at the kill site.
I was glad for the sake of fieldwork that we found the kill, and the resulting Jag videos were especially impressive. It may not be unnatural for Jaguars to predate on turtles, this I know. But there is a time when even research and the fight for conservation cannot explain the ways of nature. The jungle isn’t just a place to wander about; it’s a place of emotion, of inconsistency, of mystery. I love that. But it’s nice to have a reminder that the jungle is more than just fun.
-Micah, 2 month volunteer