Eye-to-eye with jaguars in the Pantanal

Ronald Messemaker is a ranger for the Dutch Natural Monument Society in the Netherlands and in his spare time he travels to distant ‘wildernis’ places, often as an ecotourism guide. He describes his first encounter with two jaguars in the Brazilian Pantanal in the summer of 2011: “a dream come true”.

The Jaguars of the Brazilian Pantanal, a sizeable wetland area, are among the biggest and strongest in the World. With an average of 150 kg they are almost twice the weight of their counterparts in northern South America and Central America. This may be the result of the rich availability of food and large prey, including large fish, spectacled caiman, capybara and, to the anger of cattle rangers, also livestock. With their immensely strong jaws they are even capable of cracking open terrapin shells. The Pantanal contains a sizeable population of jaguar, hence there is very good chance to admire the big cats along the shores of the River Picuiri and its oxbow lakes. With this in mind we, as econauts, journeyed into the wetlands from Porto Joffre, as part of a bird watching expedition.

We started off with bad weather, but soon this changed and it became a bright, but humid warm day. This made it more likely to encounter the big cats. The sunlight exposed a great range of biodiversity, including rich birdlife and many capybara. At the end of the day we arrived at a threeways in the river, aptly named the “Three brothers”. Searching the three waterways delivered no ‘jag’s’, and this was a bit worrying as sunset would eventuate quickly at around 18.00 hours. The captain would make one last turn toward Porto Joffre . Soon he received news of two jaguars walking on the shore, about 10 minutes away. And there they were!

Pair of jaguars - male (left) and female (right) - on the river bank, 31 August 2011 (©Ronald Messemaker)

More on jaguar