Tooth and Claw

Photos by Saúl Calvo

Relatively new to wildlife photography, SAÚL CALVO (Saúl Josue Calvo Romero) is a recent graduate in ecotourism at ICETUR Institute, with a Certificado de Guia Turismo General. He is filled with ambition and love for wildlife and its conservation; and he now works for Surcos Tours at Corcovado National Park, a nature preserve situated on the Peninsula de Osa, southern Costa Rica. He can be contacted at his professional email (saulcalvophotography at gmail dot com).

The first photo in this series came to us via email, with the subject line “I have won the lottery!” because Saúl was lucky enough, no, not to win the lottery, but to encounter a magnificent carnivore sitting under a tree in one of Costa Rica’s national parks. The jaguar is nocturnal and so we can only assume, as the photo was taken in the day, that it was resting after a night of successful hunting. Saúl has even described it as “a bit chubby.” Notably, it did not threaten to make a meal of the photographer, but immediately after the photo was taken, skittered off into the forest. Of his work, Calvo says:

I am a self-taught photographer who has just finished guide training (Guía de Turismo General) at Instituto Costarricense De Educación Turística, ICETUR Institute, the oldest and largest academy for such studies. As a kid, I was fascinated by Australian Steven Irwin, the “Crocodile Man’s”, programs on TV and his ideas about conservation and awareness. When I graduated from high school. I studied for a year to become a chef, then coached futbol (soccer) thinking I would become a futbolista. Later I went to work for an uncle on his farm where there was plenty of wildlife, and I became fascinated, and was encouraged to learn more and more about wildlife. Even when I was in the US—New Jersey—I would wander off into places like the Jersey pines because I enjoyed being out in nature. Returning to my home country of Costa Rica, my subsequent interests were deepened by those experiences on my uncle’s farm, by the opportunity to see more and more Costa Rican wildlife, and with the encouragement of Filipe DeAndrade, a wildlife photographer for the National Geographic, who lives and works in my town, Santa Maria de Dota. I especially found that I enjoyed capturing the lives of our wildlife on camera. 

I like to photograph animals from several different angles: for snakes, for example, on the ground at the same level and from above, as close to them as I can get. You have to be careful, obviously. Respect their territory. No sudden moves, no talking loudly, and with attention to the animal’s muscle movements—a sudden twitch in a snake, for example, means back off as quickly but calmly as you can with measured movements.

My preferred subjects are the endangered big cats like the jaguar[i], and reptiles. I am concerned about the threat to apex predators and hope to capture their lives on camera when possible.  One of the most interesting animals I have met, other than those I generally photograph, were the tapir and the bats, both of which are under threat by hunters and paranoid, not very well informed people who do not understand what these animals contribute to the natural world.

Subsequent photos are all by Saúl Calvo (see his bio under “Contributors” for more information.) We have noted scientific name, where the photo was taken, distribution of species, when possible, and conservation status. All photos were taken with a CANON REBEL eos t31 camera, with as needed a telescopic lense to 275 mm.

— Bronwyn Mills, for the Editors

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[1]The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has noted of this animal that, “In addition to habitat loss and fragmentation, populations are threatened by killing for trophies and illegal trade in body parts. They also are threatened by killing in retaliation for livestock depredation, whether justified or not, and to reduce perceived competition for wild meat with humans.”