Monday, October 1, 2012

Jaguar - Pantanal, Brazil

A photograph of a Jaguar stalking Capybara taken in the Pantanal in Brazil
Jaguar (Panthera Onca) - Pantanal, Brazil

Firstly, apologies for neglecting the blog for over a month, I've been in South America for 4 weeks on holiday and just returned. I've got 180 GB worth of photographs to process so hopefully I will be able to post more regularly.

One of the highlights of the trip was a 30 minute sighting of a Jaguar stalking Capybara on a river bank in the Pantanal. We were lucky to have seen it as we only had a single day on the river and the weather was not good.

More photographs inside.

A photograph of a Jaguar stalking Capybara taken in the Pantanal in Brazil
 Jaguar (Panthera Onca) - Pantanal, Brazil

The two weeks prior to our arrival had been good in terms of Jaguar sightings in the Pantanal. Our guide had seen Jaguar everyday during this period. As a result, I was optimistic about our chances. On the first day we went for a drive along the Trans-Pantaneria and saw a variety of bird-species but no Jaguars. Towards evening a storm came through and greatly reduced our chances of seeing the big cats. I was a bit nervous because if the rain did continue on to the next day, we would have been unlikely to see any Jaguar.

A photograph of a Jaguar stalking Capybara taken in the Pantanal in Brazil
Jaguar (Panthera Onca) - Pantanal, Brazil

We started the second day at about 6.30 am and spent the day on the river. Although the morning was clear and started to warm up quite early, clouds built up and it started to rain close 11.00 am. This was the worst thing that could have happened to us as Jaguars come out onto the river bank to cool off when it is hot. We also didn't know how bad the storm was going to be and we weren't sure if it was possible to stay on the river. 

A photograph of a Jaguar stalking Capybara taken in the Pantanal in Brazil
Jaguar (Panthera Onca) - Pantanal, Brazil

We pulled into a smaller stream and decided to hang around and keep an eye on the weather for about an hour before making a decision on whether to head back or continue. Fortunately the rain stopped and we were able to head out again after a quick lunch.

A photograph of a Jaguar stalking Capybara taken in the Pantanal in Brazil
Jaguar (Panthera Onca) - Pantanal, Brazil

Our run of bad luck continued as we missed a sighting of two Jaguars by 10 minutes! By this stage it was close to 3.00 pm and I had started to give up hope of seeing one of the big cats. Most of the other boats had moved off in search of the two Jaguars that had been seen previously but our guide decided to head in the opposite direction. This puzzled me a bit but I figured he knew what he was doing. 

A photograph of a Jaguar stalking Capybara taken in the Pantanal in Brazil
Jaguar (Panthera Onca) - Pantanal, Brazil

Our guide's decision paid off fifteen minutes later as we saw a large Jaguar moving along the river bank and darting into the undergrowth. I saw the animal for literally a couple of seconds before it disappeared. I was happy with this sighting but  was stunned with what followed. There were no other boats on that stretch of the river and the fact that it was our sighting was important. There is an understanding between the guides in the Pantanal that the first person to spot the Jaguar has the right to position their boat where they choose (even if it obstructs the view of another boat).

A photograph of a Jaguar stalking Capybara taken in the Pantanal in Brazil
Jaguar (Panthera Onca) - Pantanal, Brazil

As soon as the Jaguar disappeared, our guide headed back up-stream to a spot where we had seen some Capybaras on the bank of the river. Based on the Jaguars behaviour, the guide thought that it would hunt them. We stopped the boat directly opposite the Capybaras and waited for the Jaguar to appear. We only had to wait 5 minutes before the Jaguar was spotted on the river bank. The photographs on this post were shot over a 30 minute period where the Jaguar stalked the Cpybara moving closer to its prey by using the undergrowth for cover.

A photograph of a Jaguar stalking Capybara taken in the Pantanal in Brazil
Jaguar (Panthera Onca) - Pantanal, Brazil

The Capybaras were in the open and the Jaguar made it to within 10 meters of them without being spotted. However, when the Jaguar reached that point, he gave up the hunt and sat up, spooking the Capybaras who dashed into the river to escape. The Jaguar probably assessed the situation and realised that the hunt would be futile as the Capybaras would escape via the river which was only a few meters from where they sat.

A photograph of a Jaguar stalking Capybara taken in the Pantanal in Brazil
Jaguar (Panthera Onca) - Pantanal, Brazil

These photographs were taken with a Canon 7D and the 100-400mm lens. Since I was in a boat, I pushed up the ISO to be allow me to use a faster shutter (1/2000 at ISO 400). I didn't use a tripod for any of these shots.





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