Caimen Ecological Refuge: Discovering & Finding Jaguars

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Post image for The Whereabouts of Jaguars

The Caimen Ecological Refuge situated in the Southern Pantanal, South America which is an ecotourism destination, is home to many spotted cats, most notably Jaguars.  The Caiman Ecological Refuge is currently undertaking the Restoration of certain areas of the Pantanal in order to create a balance between wildlife and cattle ranching and the team there have embarked on a jaguar habituation program with a vision to soon be able to offer jaguar viewing to guests at Caiman.

The below post is an interesting report from the environmental manager, Helder Brando, detailing how they are collaring Jaguars to be able to monitor their movements and gain a better understanding of their behavior.  Not only does this information aid in better understanding the cat, but it also allows for the Jaguars to be tracked, found and thus habituated with greater ease.

‘At two o’clock in the morning the Onçafari Project team was preparing itself for the first jaguar capture. We were running through the forest edge towards the expected location and when we went out of the car we could see a beautiful female in the trap. As expected, she was calm and we did all the preparations for the sedative.

The photo below shows the dart already fired. She was so quiet with our presence that she didn’t even respond to the dart firing.

At the horizon a powerful storm was approaching and as we were working, the sounds of thunders and the cold wind built the scenery. It was an unique experience to work with the Americas’ largest wildcat surrounded by the sounds of the Pantanal rain. It was a beautiful female weighting 85 kg and about 5 years old. The whole process of setting the GPS collar was done quickly and in less than two hours she was recovering herself already.
Her coat was wonderful without any apparent marks, a healthy young adult. The storm was gone weak and was now a gentle rain. She recovered quickly on the wet grass and her name couldn’t be more appropriate: CHUVA, meaning “Rain” in portuguese.

Two days later, another pleasant surprise awaited us. It was about eight o’clock in the morning. We knew that four jaguars were using that area, when a soft sunlight showed a beautiful jaguar resting on the track. Even though it was attached to the trap, the jaguar was sleeping when we arrived. Its honey-colored eyes showed a calm and confident expression.

In five minutes, the jaguar was already lying down and in a few seconds would be totally sedated. It was a soft yellow coloured male with very dark spots and rosettes. Working during the day was very special and eventhough we were quite concentrated we could appreciate all the experience and all the details of this big cat.

It was a spectacular morning. Being close to this undenger animal is a unique opportunity for those working in conservation and ecotourism. This was a big jaguar male, with powerful muscles, huge paws and prominently large jaw and at the same time showing a smooth behavior. Working with an animal so relaxed made the whole procedure easy to the veterinarian Joares May and the biologist Helder Brandão. Setting the GPS collar, the biometric measurements, the biological sampling, collecting ticks and the monitoring of the vital signs were done quickly.

All the work was done on the back of the Onçafari Project vehicle and soon after the animal was placed in a hammock forest to recover itself. At this point the Caiman community had the opportunity to witness this phase of the capture, an important moment for environmental education and awareness of the importance of the jaguar in the ecosystem. This is one of the objectives of the Onçafari Project, stimulated by CENAP: stablish an educational channel of communication among communities, ranchers and researchers.

This beautiful cat weighed 110 kg, having all the necessary tools to defend its territory and compete for females. With an estimated age of 7 years old, this jaguar was very healthy with well-preserved teeth and in reproductive period. The jaguar captures for setting the collars and to monitor the territories were a success and the goals were achieved this year. The process of habituating jaguars to vehicles has begun and the future looks very promising. Check out the look of this great jaguar, although still without a specific name. Perhaps with this history someone can come up with an interesting name. Notice that it is a very strong and large male, but yet quite calm and confident, showing signs of struggle with other males and presenting scars on the forehead and face.’

The below maps show the movements of the different Jaguars we have collared around the Caiman Ecological Refuge situated in Southern Pantanel, South America.

Author: Helder Brandão (environmental manager)

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