Midnight feast: jaguar filmed hunting turtle in BBC Big Cats television first

Midnight feast: jaguar filmed hunting turtle in BBC Big Cats television first

15th January 2018

Henry Bodkin, The Telegraph

The jaguar usually hunts in the jungle but was captured visiting the coast in a television first.

It is one of the rarest midnight feasts ever captured on camera.

Under the moonlight on a deserted Costa Rican beach, a pregnant female jaguar, slowed by the weight of the cub inside her, paces at leisure towards prey she knows cannot escape.

What happens next - the culmination of weeks of rough living and patience by a BBC crew - is a television first.

The jaguar has timed her arrival on the Pacific coast perfectly - she pounces on a sea turtle which has beached in order to lay its eggs.

Shot on military grade thermal-imaging cameras, the footage shows her drag the stricken creature, which weighs as much as she does, up the beach and rip it apart for its meat.

The kill is the crowning moment of episode 2 of the BBC’s Big Cats series, which also follows the battle for survival of Africa’s youngest pride of lions in the Namibian desert, and the aquatic adventures of Asian fishing cats.

Cameraman Luke Barnett said: “For a month of nights I squeezed myself into a small, sweaty hide with a cloud of mosquitos, a gang of crabs and, on occasion, a wayward turtle.

“Perhaps it was a slight move of the camera lens that gave my position away and the jaguar, full of curiosity came to within three foot to check me out.

“Run - no chance.”

The largest and most powerful cat in the Americas, the jaguar usually hunts in the jungle but was captured visiting the coast to coincide with the the arribada, also known as the march of a million turtles, where the sea animals ashore to nest.

Filming the rare encounter involved living without electricity in a remote research station for five weeks, separated from civilisation by a two-hour hike.

Anna Place, the director, said: “It was days before we even saw a turtle and weeks before a jaguar showed up, but Luke’s persistence paid off.

“We were all back at base preparing for a night’s filming when the scientists radioed that there were a lot of turtles on the beach, this turned out to be the start of the biggest arribada in years.

More than 32,000 turtles nested on our beach over two nights.

“It was an amazing sight”.

Traditionally, film crews operating at night have had to make do with low-level light from the stars, moon or infrared technology.

However, the thermal camera, originally developed for the armed forces, require no light source whatsoever, only heat.

Episode 2 airs on at 8pm on Thursday 18 January 2018 on BBC 1.

Source: The Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/01/13/midnight-feast-jaguar-filmed-hunting-turtle-bbc-big-cats-television1/)

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