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There are cats, and there are Cats

June 17, 2018

Imagine for a moment that you are camping under the stars (more realistically clouds) at the Las Tangaras Reserve in Mindo, Ecuador. You are at peace, bundled in your sleeping bag, and listening to nothing but the calls of frogs and insects. When suddenly you hear a different call. The call nobody wants to hear when they are about to fall into a deep sleep. The “Call of Nature”. Disgruntled, you extricate yourself from your sleeping bag, fumble for your headlamp, exit the tent, find your boots and make your way to the Las Tangaras outhouse. At last at the latrine and taking care of business, you reflect that this is not so bad. At least there’s toilet paper, and plus you have a great view of the forest, maybe you’ll see some neat animals. Then, you hear leaves rustling and twigs snapping. You sit up straighter, frozen, adrenaline pumping, “what is that?”. The sounds come closer and closer, it sounds close to the ground, and then at last a small shadow moves into view, and a white-eared opposum scurries past. Relieved, you relax back into your seat and carry on. Only to sit bolt upright as a much larger shadow falls across the entrance. A Puma (Puma concolor) stalks past, nose to the ground. It disappears around the corner in the same direction of the opossum. Well, this didn’t actually happen, but it may have happened if you decided to stay the night at Reserva Las Tangaras the night of the May 15, 2018! However, we’ll never know exactly what happened that night, all we do know is that the next morning there was a scattering of opossum tracks and one Puma footprint directly in front of the latrine.

The Reserve is very much a wilderness area, and we are constantly reminded of that fact. We have seen even more Puma tracks around the property as recently as June 15th, we have a photo from one of our camera traps of an Ocelot on May 23, and we have personally encountered an Oncilla as we were crossing the Río Nambillo very early in morning to catch the early bus to Quito. It’s one thing to know that these animals exist, we see their pictures, we read about them in our animal guides, but it is quite another thing to actually see them (or evidence of them) in the wild. We are very thankful, that we live in such a protected area. Not only does the Reserve, a 50 ha property, have a lot of primary cloud forest, but it is also borders the Mindo-Nambillo Bosque Protector, over 19, 000 ha of protected land that also encompasses many acres of primary cloud forest. Many of these rare and endangered animals like wild cats require large areas of intact forest to survive, and we are very thankful that this very special place can provide that for these spectacular creatures.

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