Tourists in the Jungle – Ants, Jaguar Tracks, & Squirrels

 During our week’s stay, Carol and I wandered the trails that the Chan Chich lodge had developed and maintained. One trail went along an ancient Mayan road for a distance. It was slightly raised and bordered by stones. Carol was interested in ants, having done her dissertation on them. Everywhere we walked and looked there were trails of leaf-cutter ants. Lines of waving green parasols across the paths and along fallen tree trunks.

There was another species of ant that seemed to associated with fallen tree trunks and other forest debris. They were fat little critters with striped-looking distended abdomens. In some respects, they looked a bit like giant versions of the honey ants Carol had worked on for her Ph.D.

On one treck, I walked up a hill along a sort of cleared area trying to see howlers that I could hear in the trees nearby. I was busy looking up. When I looked down, I was standing on the edge of a trail of army ants. A quick step backward, and I was clear. The marching army of ants was about three feet wide.  The army extended across the cleared area – perhaps a skid road from logging – which was about 15 or 20 feet wide. I couldn’t see either end of the army. I jumped over the marching army and continued my search for howlers.

One afternoon Carol had decided to soak in the lodge’s pool, so I did a bit of a walk-about on my own. I was walking along a trail near a small stream. The ground was wet – it had rained the night before – and there in the middle of the trail were jaguar tracks. Apparently, a female with a cub had walked there not too long before I had come along. It was evident that the cub had been gamboling as the female walked along the path in a straight line. The tracks disappeared off into the forest. That was the closest I came to experiencing a real live jaguar. Sometime after Carol and I came home, I received a photo of a magnificent male jaguar that Carolyn had named Fenton – El Tigre Fenton. 

Photo courtesy of Carolyn Miller

Unfortunately, El Tigre Fenton came to a bad end. I understand that he was shot by a rancher for killing livestock. The jaguar may or may not have been guilty, but, like with wolves in the western U.S. he was a predator, cattle had been killed, he was in the vicinity.

A few yards further along the trail I heard a chattering sound. I stopped and looked around. The noise came from a tree on the side of the trail. As I stood still and watched, a squirrel poked its head around the tree trunk, and it chattered at me before disappearing up the tree. I managed to get a little video of the squirrel, but not much and not very good.


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