The Ministry of Agriculture is warning the public against sharing unconfirmed reports of a 'jaguar attack' as claimed by a Palo Seco man on social media on Wednesday. In a statement issued on the same day, the ministry said such reports could fuel panic and reckless behaviour.
Earlier, Newsday visited the man at his home at Premier Settlement in Palo Seco over claims that he had seen the elusive “jaguar.” He later claimed to have been attacked by a smaller predator.
On Wednesday, Ramesh Ramroop, 44, took Newsday to a mango tree in a bushy area to show what he said were claw marks made by an adult jaguar on Tuesday at around 6.30 pm.
The father of two children, ages nine and ten, also showed the base of a plum tree where he said he first saw the dangerous animal resting at about 5.30 pm on Tuesday.
But shortly after 2 pm on Wednesday, after Newsday left the area, Ramroop went viral on social media after he said a smaller jaguar attacked him while handling clothes in the yard.
Ramroop said he used a piece of wood to hit the animal, which returned to the forested area. Photos that a relative shared, showed scrapes on his back and hands.
Ramroop was taken to the Siparia District Health Facility for medical treatment and had not yet made a police report about the latest incident.
No one else saw the attack or had video or photos of jaguars.
When Newsday visited before the alleged attack, Ramroop recalled hearing the family’s pet dog, Milo, barking continuously under the house on Tuesday afternoon.
He looked through a window, thinking someone was at the front. He then saw the “jaguar” at the base of the tree.
“I got frightened and told two children to lock the doors and stay inside. I called the police. When it saw me, it bawled and ran into the bushes. At around 6.30 pm, I saw it again, this time spread out on the mango tree,” he said.
He said the black and yellow cat was bigger than an average dog. He wants those in authority to capture and/ or kill the animal.
Residents have been claiming to have seen a jaguar on the loose for the past week. They believe it might have been smuggled into the country from neighbouring Venezuela.
On Tuesday, several large pawprints were found, which are still to be determined what animal had made them.
Game wardens from the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, the police and other stakeholders like the NGO Hunters Search and Rescue Team (HSRT) and the Zoological Society have been working together to investigate the claims of possible sightings of the exotic animal.
On Wednesday, the ministry said there were “no confirmed reports of a jaguar attack” in Palo Seco.
A statement from the ministry said it was aware of the social media reports of the alleged attack.
It added that the Game Warden Unit representatives interviewed the alleged victim, and the police are also investigating it.
The ministry called on the public to refrain from sharing unconfirmed reports as it will continue to fuel panic and reckless behaviour.
The unit has set up camp in the forested area where the alleged sighting occurred.
“We will continue to search the area to ensure that residents are safe,” the statement said.
On Wednesday, HRST leader captain Vallence Rambharat advised hunters not to heed the call of a man who publicly called on hunters to enter the forests of Palo Seco.
“Bonafide hunters know they must have a permit to enter the forests and that permits are not issued during the closed season. The gentleman in question is not a bonafide hunter, and we can confirm with certainty that he has never purchased a hunting permit,” Rambharat said.
HSRT members were included in Tuesday’s data collection exercise by the ministry.
“This exercise was professionally planned. The exercise yesterday (Tuesday) was not to search for a jaguar but rather a data collection exercise. This is not the time for hype and sensationalism but for a studied approach to a situation. We are fully supportive of the approach that the authorities are currently engaged in,” Rambharat said.
Rambharat urged hunters to be guided by the laws which govern hunting and advisories issued by Forestry Division.
“We firmly believe that the dignity of hunters and the hunting fraternity must be respected at all times,” he said.
People with information about illegal animals can call the Wildlife Section of the Forestry Division at 225-3827/3828/3829 and 225-3835.
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According to National Geographic magazine:
A jaguar's lifespan in the wild typically ranges from 12 to 15 years. They can reach a height of five to six feet (head and body), weigh 100 to 250 pounds, and have tails that are 27.5 to 36 inches long. Jaguars do not avoid water and are good swimmers.
They hunt fish, turtles, and caimans, using their "incredibly powerful" jaws to pierce the animals' skulls.
Jaguars also eat deer and other land animals, which they prefer to ambush at night.
Jaguars are territorial and define their area by marking with their waste or clawing trees.
The mother stays with their cubs and fiercely defends them from any animal that may approach – even their father.
Young jaguars learn to hunt by living with their mothers for two years or more.