Source: A&W Magazine

The Jaguars of Pantanal

While Amazon gets all the attention, the Pantanal is undoubtedly the best place on earth to spot Jaguars in the wild, the dense foliage of the Amazon makes it difficult to observe the animals, unlike the open marshes of the Pantanal and these marshes are home to some of the biggest Jaguars in the world.

These jaguars most closely resemble the leopard physically, although it is usually larger and of sturdier build and it’s behavioural and habitat characteristics are closer to those of a tiger. While dense rainforest is the Jaguars preferred habitat, they range across a variety of forested and open terrains. They are even the third-largest feline species after the tiger and the lion, But the largest in the Americas.

The jaguar is notable along with the tiger, as a feline that enjoys swimming, unlike many other Big-cats. The jaguar is largely an opportunistic, apex predator at the top of the food chain in the Pantanal. They have an exceptionally powerful bite, even relative to the other big cats; they bite directly through the skull of prey between the ears to deliver a fatal bite to the brain. They usually stalk rather than chase their predator. The jaguar attacks from cover and usually from a target’s blind spot with a quick pounce, they sometimes even climb trees to prepare an ambush, like all cats, the jaguar is an obligate carnivore, feeding only on meat. They regularly take adult caiman, deer, capybaras, tapirs, and sometimes even the anacondas.

Jaguars from the Pantanal region are the largest of their species, they weigh about 110kg to 150kg, similar to a Javan or Sumatran tiger in size. Like most cats, the jaguar is solitary outside mother–cub groups. Adults generally meet only to court and mate. A female’s territory may range from 25-40 sq km in size and may overlap other female Jaguars occasionally, but these animals generally avoid one another. A male Jaguar’s range covers roughly twice as much area of a female, varying in size with the availability of game and space, and do not overlap. The territory of a male can contain several females, on one of the occasion during my trip, we spotted 3 different female Jaguar’s in a radius of 0.5 sq kms, The jaguar uses scrape marks, and urine to mark their territory.

Located in the heart of South America, the world’s largest wetland, The Pantanal is almost the size of Britain, Established as a World Heritage Site in 2000, The jaguar’s present range extends from South-western United States and Mexico across much of Central America and south to Paraguay and northern Argentina.

The Pantanal has very few people and no towns within. Distances are so great and ground transport so poor that people get around in small airplanes and motorboats; car travel is restricted by the seasons. The principal access road that runs deep into the Pantanal is the Transpantaneira Road, This 147km dirt road which ends at Porto Jofre consist of 122 small wooden bridges and houses only 17 lodges during the dry season, As roughly 80% of the Pantanal floodplains are submerged during the rainy seasons, In the Paraguay River portion of the Pantanal, water levels rise between two meters to five meters seasonally. Annual rainfall over the flood basin is recorded between 1,000 and 1,500mm with most rainfall occurring between mid Octobers to March. The months from June to Mid October are great for wildlife viewing.

The Pantanal is an unparalleled universe. The biodiversity just can’t be compared. During my recent maiden visit to the Panantal in July this year with a few friends, I was very fortunate to witness & document 20 jaguars in 4days, after travelling up to the end of the road to Porto Jofre, we boarded out motor boat and headed to our house boat which was stationed in the Cuiaba river and was equipped with air conditioned rooms, a private living, kitchen & a spa on the deck all for ourselves. We did our safaris in the motor boats which would be ready at 6 in the morning, experiencing the nail biting adventures, the chilly early mornings we returned to our houseboat for lunch during the hot & humid afternoons, and again began our spotting during pleasant evenings until dusk, the stunning landscapes create narratives which must be experienced. The entire experience is simply “Electrifying”.