MAN MAULED TO DEATH BY JAGUAR
Richard Foster; CEO, Research Centre
“We had a horrendous hurricane come through here on Sunday night. Winds of excess of a hundred miles an hour.”
The chain of events that has apparently led to the death of Bruce Cullerton started on Sunday night, during the passage of Hurricane Richard. A four year old jaguar being rehabilitated by Richard and Carol Foster escaped and is believed to have mauled Cullerton on Monday night.
“This cat I know from experience. I have worked with him a lot and he originally come from Backa Bush where he exhibit. Tourists decided they didn’t want him there so he was brought over to us. Now it took about six days or a little less to catch that cat in a trap. He was originally caught from the wild in a trap, so I understand so he had a healthy dislike for traps. It was pointless really setting it the first night when he was not hungry.”
And that belief that hunger will keep the animal close to familiar surroundings is what the Fosters and officials of the Forestry Department are hoping will help them to recapture the animal.
Patrick Jones; Stand Up
This is the cage where the Jaguar named Max escaped on Sunday night during the passage or Hurricane Richard. Indications are that a tree fell on top of the structure damaging it and allowing the animal to break free. In the ensuing twenty four hours it is believed that was when the jaguar attacked and killed Cullerton.
There is evidence at the scene that indicates that the jaguar attempted to drag Cullerton into the nearby bush. His body was found about a hundred feet from behind a vehicle parked under the house. Exactly what happened on Monday night never be known; but veterinarian Dr. Isabelle Paquet-Durand says this was a tragic incident that was not normal behaviour for a jaguar.
Dr. Isabelle Paquet-Durand
“In general jaguars, wild jaguars, will only seek proximity to humans when they are really sick and old like these problem jaguars of which some we have had here but normally they would not attack a human. This has never happened before; the only time that fatalities too have occurred with jaguars has been in zoos when people have not observed the rules and gone into an enclosure with a jaguar. Tame jaguars are dangerous, wild jaguars are never do this.”
This is Cullerton’s dog, and today the vet was tending its wounds, apparently from the same attack that killed its owner. The Fosters, with help from the Forestry Department and Belize Zoo are working feverishly to recapture the animal. According to Wildlife Officer Rasheda Garcia the intention is to trap the animal not kill it, just so random killings of other animals does not happen.
“We heard about the report this morning. Since we heard about it we came here and we have been investigating to find out exactly what happened. The jaguar escaped from the Fosters during the hurricane so now what we are doing we are working along with Omar Figaroa who is an expert on Jaguars in Belize. We are also working with some keepers from the Belize Zoo who have had a lot of experience capturing jaguars. Tonight we will be out trying to capture this jaguar.”
And the fate of the animal once recaptured is not certain. What is known however is that the Fosters intended to use it in an upcoming National Geography documentary.
“We were hoping to use it in a National Geographic film but so far this particular cat hadn’t had any expose in the media.”
Patrick Jones, Reporter
In terms of the safety of people in this area, should they be concerned until you capture this animal?
“I would say just stay away from this general area. I don’t think it will do to Democracia; the cat, that’s why I wanted to establish food here the first night after it escaped, stayed in this area. This is his come and I am sure he probably within a couple hundred yards of us right now sleeping in the bushes. It is very timid during the day; they get bolder at night.”
And hopefully that trait will help the search team to locate and trap the jaguar before another incident takes place.