A camera trap has captured some stunningly rare footage of a jaguar killing an ocelot, another predatory wild cat, in the depths of a tropical forest in Guatemala. This rare glimpse of cat-on-cat conflict could be a reflection of how climate change and contested resources are having a dramatic effect on the ecosystems of Central America.
The footage was captured in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve in March 2019. It shows a male jaguar quietly waiting for over an hour near a watering hole. A tapir strolls by, but the jaguar doesn't bite. Instead, it patiently waits for an ocelot slip by and takes a sip from the water. The jaguar pounces, snatching the ocelot and carries it away in its jaws.
This is thought to be one of the very first images of a jaguar directly killing an ocelot, although the behavior has been previously suspected based on traces of ocelot being found in jaguar poop.
As reported in the journal Biotropica, wildlife ecologists from Washington State University and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have detailed the footage and argue that it could be an example of climate-change-induced conflict.
The two wildcats are both active during the twilight hours of the day, but they typically avoid one another. While Jaguars are larger than ocelots, they typically stick to other easier-to-catch prey, such as armadillos or peccaries. However, the researchers argue that these two brought into close proximity with one another due to the dwindling water supplies in the area, a known knock-on effect on climate change.
“These dramatic camera trap images clearly show the fierce competition wildlife face for precious resources like water,” Rony García-Anleu, study co-author from the WCS’s Guatemala Program, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, climate change and associated droughts are predicted to worsen, which means tough times are ahead for wildlife that depend on watering holes for their survival.”
This wasn’t the only unexpected event documented on their camera traps. They also collected footage of two jaguars appearing to fight over a young tapir, which is unusual as adult jaguars tend to avoid one another. Once again, the fact these two were coming into conflict with one another appears to indicate there is tough competition for resources.
“We have evidence that many things are happening related to climate change, but we might not be aware of every detail, of every consequence,” adds Lucy Perera-Romero, lead study author and a WSU doctoral student. “For example, in these beautiful, green forests, we may not be aware that water flow is a serious issue. It could be another source of mortality—apart from