by Graham Reynolds, Earthwatch Team Member
Jeff, Serena, and I were checking traps on one of
the trails called Central. We got to the end of the
trail and decided to go down into a riverbed about 30
meters away to look for tracks and to get a better look
at some nearby birds. I had decided to go up the riverbed
east of the trail to continue looking for tracks.
About 100 meters east of the others, I spotted a very
clear ocelot track in the sand. I soon found the whole
trail. I whistled to Jeff and Serena. We recorded the
location of the trail. The tracks showed that an ocelot
had moved through the riverbed the night before and
was heading west.
As we were recording the tracks and taking pictures,
we heard a noise in the bushes several feet away, on
the north bank of the dry riverbed. We crouched down
and stayed silent. Jeff had his binoculars in his hands
and I had my camera.
Suddenly, at 10:10 AM, an ocelot emerged out of the
bushes right in front of us! The cat headed straight
for Jeff and when he saw Jeff, he turned and walked
right in front of Serena and me. The ocelot was not
scared at all and hardly even noticed us as he moved
diagonally across the riverbed. I took a picture of
the ocelot as he trotted away in a southwest direction.
When he was gone, we looked at each other in amazement
and then cheered loudly. We were extremely lucky to
see this ocelot just walking around, and even luckier
to see him in broad daylight, not even ten feet away
from us. We were very excited.
We identified the ocelot as an adult male because
his head was slightly larger in proportion to the radio
collar around his neck. This radio collar means that
he had been captured before by Carlos. We wrote this
information down and headed back to the rendezvous point,
where we told the rest of the team about our amazing
sighting. Only once in five years has anyone seen an
ocelot in daylight and not in a trap, but just walking
Ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) are small cats with beautiful
markings. They range from grayish to orange, with black
spots all over them. Carlos estimates that there are
between 600 to 800 ocelots that live in the Chamela/Cuixmala
Biosphere Reserve. They are predatory and mostly nocturnal.
They feed on mice, birds, and other small creatures.
They are beautiful animals, and I encourage you to look
at pictures of them and learn more about them.
This photo was taken by the January Earthwatch Team.
Like the coati we caught, this ocelot was given a shot
of anesthesia, measured and weighed, checked for parasites
(ticks and fleas), tattooed with a number, and then
courtesy of Jen Vogel/Earthwatch Institute