Today we visited the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, This is a 128,000 acre protected forest that is home to many animals, including 5 species of cats: jaguars, pumas, margays, ocelots, and jaguarundis. Sadly, but not surprisingly, we did not see any of these. We did, however, see and hear many birds and insects. Our guide, Ki, spotted these and patiently helped us see them: toucans, White-Collared Manakins, Montezuma Oropendolas, Red-billed Pigeons, Piratic Flycatchers, and more.
We saw many leaf-cutter ants, and learned more about how they live. All those leaves and flower petals they collect? They bring those back to their nests, where “cleaner” ants clean them off, chew them up, and then all the ants defecate on them. This creates compost, and then the ants plant fungus on that. The fungus is what they eat. So essentially, they are farmers! Some of them are warriors – these are much bigger, and have very strong jaws. Ki stomped on the ground near one nest and got some warriors to come out. Yikes! You would not want to be bitten by one of those. He picked one up (carefully) for us to look at, then gently put her back down. That’s one of today’s pictures.
We also saw some different trees, including one humorously known as the “Tourist Tree” because it has red, peeling bark. That is another of today’s pictures. There were also trees with significant scratch marks from where jaguars had clawed them, just like when your pet cat claws the furniture!
As we were leaving, Ki spotted a tarantula hole and coaxed the female Scarlet-Rumped tarantula out so we could see her. I am not fond of big spiders, but she was pretty cool. She is the third picture.
Tomorrow we are visiting a Mayan ruin site, and I will tell you about that tomorrow night.