Poster presentation 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) life histories based on a 23-year camera-trapping project in Neotropical forest in Panama (#631)

Jacalyn Giacalone 1 , Gregory E. Willis 2 , Charles Kontos (deceased) 2 , Ricardo Moreno 3 , Claudio M. Monteza 4 , Jose Guillermo Sanchez Paredes 2
  1. Montclair State University, Sparta, New Jersey, United States
  2. The Rainforest Connection, Sparta, New Jersey, United States
  3. Jaguara Panama, Panama
  4. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Ancon, Panama

Ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) are elusive mid-sized Neotropical predators that are important in a variety of ecosystems but difficult to study. At the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, authors JG and GW conducted a long-term (1982–2017) mammal census based on trail transect techniques to understand population variations of diurnal species. In 1994, in order to document nocturnal mammals, they started using film-cameras, camcorders, and emerging electronic remote monitoring systems. By collecting and analyzing images, they increased understanding of the ecology and behavior of wild ocelots. They established a catalog of images of individuals that could be identified by their spot patterns. Since facial recognition software tested poorly, with low reliability, the identifications were done visually, using the unique patterns of each ocelot. They documented an increase in ocelot numbers recorded over the 23 years of the study. Offspring could often be matched to their mothers through photos that showed their associations. This study provided unique insights into the lives of ocelots undisturbed in a habitat protected from human hunting. The data reveal information about ocelot ecology, including their longevity, reproduction, diet, predation, social interactions, movements, population, latrine use for communication, and more. Furthermore, the camera-trapping project revealed visits to the island by jaguars and pumas, almost never seen by resident staff and that sometimes resided for many months. The data collection method and analysis provided a foundation for further fine-scale studies by radio-tracking and prey remains and DNA from scats.