Panthera onca

video taken by author on August 5th

Chan Chich is known for being pretty much the best place in Belize to spot a jaguar (scientific name, Panthera onca) in the wild, given the Lodge’s huge amount of protected land (30,000 acres) adjacent to hundreds of thousands of acres similarly preserved, or under government conservation that together form the international Jaguar Corridor Initiative.

The word Panthera comes from the ancient Greek pánthēr (πάνθηρ), which essentially means “predator of everything,” and is a scientific genus comprised of the five big cat species in the world: snow leopards, tigers, lions, jaguars, and leopards. The latter four of these are the only cats that can roar, given morphological differences in their bones and throat.

map of the area with major land conservation holdings in green

map of the area with major land conservation holdings in green

The conservation NGO Panthera, which is responsible in part for the aforementioned Corridor Initiative, has a mission of protecting all species of the genus that still exist, and every summer there are student researchers from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University – simply known as Virginia Tech – who work with Panthera to study the jaguars in the Chan Chich area, called Gallon Jug Estate.

They use camera traps and scat analyses to create population estimates and better understand these graceful predators, and those camera traps are visible every couple kilometers on the roads and trails around Chan Chich, capturing all sorts of photos of wildlife (and human travelers). We’ll be posting some of those shots here in the future, but for now, you may be interested in seeing the products of other camera traps run by Panthera in Africa, which you can actually sort through yourself to help scientists sift the useful photographs from the duds.

Learn more at the new (as of last week) Zooniverse project: Camera CATalogue. Hopefully in the next year or two the Panthera team in Latin America will get their photos on Zooniverse too!

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