That is the problem facing environmentalists whose research shows that jaguars, themselves at risk of extinction, are increasingly preying on endangered turtle species.
Experts said that 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 on marine turtle deaths attributable to jaguars were not collected before 2005. But, in his paper, ‘Jaguar Panthera onca predation of marine turtles: conflict between flagship species in Tortuguero, Costa Rica’, published in Oryx, the International Journal of Conservation, Mr Verissimo argued that the 676 recorded deaths in the five years hence was an extraordinarily high figure.
“There are no cases of this type of behaviour that I am aware of,” he said yesterday. 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 their propensity to hunt endangered green turtles, as well as hawksbills and leatherbacks, which have also been taken in smaller numbers.