Our final day at Las Cuevas began bright and early as always; we were out the door for our morning hike by 8am. We retraced our steps over 13 miles to collect our camera traps in record time, much more mentally prepared for the trail this time around. Though our picture count was low, we remained optimistic that our cameras had caught some animals (besides us). We also managed to spot what was most likely a Middle American ameiva (Ameiva festiva). I had never come across this lizard species before but was able to identify it using a field guide by its coloration. The lizard was about 12 cm long (which made it too long for an anole) and was a dark brown with white lines on its side broken into spots.
We had to wait until nightfall for the day’s real excitement: our camera trap analysis. The prospects seemed poor as we sifted through endless photos of ourselves or even of leaves flapping in the wind. But our first big find was a giant curassow, casually strolling past our camera in the middle of the road. Soon after, we discovered a picture of a Baird’s tapir, and the group cheered ecstatically at our first mammal sighting. Suspense rose as we tested the final camera; our expectations were low since it was placed in the center of a giant leaf-cutter ant nest. But to our surprise, the very last camera first held a photo of an indistinct rodent, which we guessed was an agouti. As we flipped through the final photos, the characteristic markings of a jungle cat suddenly appeared on the screen. Our final sighting was of an ocelot, one of the elusive large cat species of the Chiquibul.
Though our findings may have been few and far between, just the fact that we were able to capture such diverse species in four short days is incredible. And with that, a week in the Belizean rainforest is already done. Next stop: Glover’s Reef.