Photograph: GVI Costa Rica

Increase in marine turtle predation by jaguars highlights potential conservation management dilemma

A recent paper in Oryx has highlighted an interesting conservation conundrum. What do you do when one endangered species is preying on another endangered species?

An analysis of data from the Tortuguero National Park, led by Diogo Veríssimo (Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent) looked at population dynamics and the increasing predation of endangered and critically endangered species of marine turtles by jaguars – a species under threat in Costa Rica.

The findings show that the Costa Rican authorities may soon be faced with a interesting conservation management dilemma.

On the one hand, the predation of marine turtles by jaguars is increasing and it is unclear as to the level at which it will stabilize. On the other hand, the degree to which marine turtles are of importance in the diet of the jaguar in and around Tortuguero National Park remains unclear.

Diogo Veríssimo explained: “As biodiversity faces growing anthropogenic pressures, conservationists increasingly deal with conflicts between the management of different species.

“The resolution of such conflicts often requires making challenging decisions, particularly when the species are of conservation concern and/or have a high media profile. This is especially true when it comes to predation events where one species directly impacts the other.

“Conservation campaigns for behavior change and fundraising have long relied on flagship species to engage their target stakeholders. This approach has limitations when one high-profile species, such as the jaguar, becomes an additional pressure to other high-profile species, such as marine turtles.

“In such a case, it is important to manage not only the ecological and behavioral interactions between these species but also the relationships between stakeholders such as local communities, conservation organizations and donors. Improved understanding of these issues will be required for appropriate management of the marine turtles and the jaguar.”

The research paper, entitled ‘Jaguar Panthera onca predation of marine turtles: conflict between flagship species in Tortuguero, Costa Rica’, is published in Cambridge Journals’ Oryx.

You can read the full paper here


Diogo Veríssimo’s work at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology focuses on the adaptation of principles from marketing and economics to improve awareness and fundraising for biodiversity conservation. His research with Global Vision International (GVI) involves the ecology and conservation of marine turtles in the Tortuguero area.

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