Yesterday in a night tour we were lucky to meet the wonderful animal that can be seen in the video (Video 01). It is an ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), one of the cat species we can find in Finca Luna Nueva. The ocelots are felines of medium size, mainly nocturnal habits and strict carnivores. They have an average weight of 11 kg. At the level of Mesoamerica, it is the third largest cat after the jaguar and the puma. In Finca Luna Nueva we usually see footprint of them in different trails of the farm once or twice a month. It is the cat species that we observe most commonly. I have been working in this place since April 2017; during that time I personally have had the luck to observe three different individuals. If I compare that time with the three previous years in which I have worked as a biologist in other places in Costa Rica, I find it surprising that they are the only three wild cats that I have seen in the wild. This makes me wonder, why do we see so many cats here at Finca Luna Nueva?
Video 01: Adult male ocelot. Recorded in Finca Luna Nueva, Costa Rica
The reasons are mainly ecological. For those who do not know the Finca Luna Nueva it is an organic farm of 88 hectares (217 acres). We manage many perennial crops in a permaculture production system. The system has a lot of production of crops and several agro forests. The farm also has approximately 30% of the area covered by secondary forests in different stages of regeneration. These are not planted as islands but these forests form corridors throughout the farm, some close to bodies of water, to reduce the loss of nutrients, others to help with pest control and connectivity.
On the farm, hunting is prohibited and workers do not harm wildlife. They know the species and they know how to live with them. You may already have a pretty good idea of why more cats appear on this farm than in other parts of the country, even in national parks. But let’s analyze it in a more biological perspective. We have an agro-landscape of organic farming. With many different small ecosystems in which there is also a large amount of fruits, tubers and edible leaves, mainly used by wild turkeys and agoutis (large rodents weighing up to 6 kilograms). So we have lots of small and medium prey species, refuge areas and there are few peccaries (new world pigs or javelinas) on the farm. Peccaries are very aggressive with small cats because they are a threat to their young but not to adults. In this area there are two species of peccaries. Sometimes we see them inside Finca Luna. It is rare to see them, in these months I’ve only seen footprints once.
An area with organic management, mixed crops of perennial and annual species has a greater presence of many wildlife species than other types of agricultural or livestock production. Here at Luna we are preparing to expand the area of polyculture production and one of our ideas is to monitor the changes that occur when a system of this type is built and how it evolves over time. So in the future we will share more about all this. With a bit of luck, we can even give you some scientific articles to read in the future.