It's a catch-22: the endangered jaguar eats the rare turtle


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The Independent Online

It is the conservationist's catch-22: what to do when one endangered species eats another. Research by environmentalists shows that jaguars, themselves at risk of extinction, are increasingly preying on endangered turtle species.

Experts said the predation of adult turtles by the big cats in a Costa Rican national park "has now reached a magnitude never before recorded".

"More and more jaguars are being pushed towards the coastline, where they find sea turtles, which are easy prey," said Diogo Verissimo, researcher with the Durrell Institute of Ecology and Conservation and Global Vision International.

Figures for the number of marine turtles killed by jaguars were not collected before 2005, but in his paper, Mr Verissimo says the 676 recorded deaths in the five years hence is an extraordinarily high figure.

Some argue that people should not interfere in what is essentially a natural, evolutionary process. However, in this case, increasing deforestation was blamed for causing the cats to look further afield. Mr Verissimo said that making prey more easily available in the cats' natural habitat in the Tortuguero National Park could ease the problem.

Joseph Tobias, a conservation biologist at Oxford University, said the phenomenon may be part of a natural, long-term trend but "to stop it you need to protect large areas of forest, because the jaguar is a long range hunter". He added: "You need to bear in mind that people in that part of the world need to feed themselves and protect their livestock, so you cannot necessarily insist they clear no areas of forest. But the world has never seen deforestation on this scale before."