High on our list (perhaps first) of things to see on our trip to Brazil was Jaguars, and today’s Jaguar photo hunt did not disappoint. We began the morning at 6 a.m. cruising down river in a power boat (the reason for that will become apparent) for anything of interest — birds, otters, caiman, capaybara, whatever we could find.
And at last our driver received the signal on his radio that a Jaguar had been sighted, and the chase was on — full speed down the river we had just come up at 61 km/hr (about 36 mph), chasing other power boats to the sighting. But it was a false alarm — no Jaguar.
However, continuing down river a short way, we found one boat stopped along the river, right in front of two robust Jaguar males (apparently brothers) who were trying to make their way down to the water.
Each of them tried a few different routes, but didn’t seem to like the footing.
But soon we were surrounded by at least 20 power boats, all jockeying for position to see these great cats.
The brothers put on a show for at least 45 minutes walking down the shoreline, in and out of tall vegetation, only to reappear further down river. They might have been hunting their favorite prey — capybara, the rodent the size of a baby hippo, or caiman, who also frequent the river banks.
Adult Jaguar are big, muscular animals, the largest cat in the Americas, and third largest cat in the world. They are stocky, with short legs and heavy trunks, standing only 30 inches on average at the shoulder, but weighing as much as 125-200 pounds in adult males.
Even their paws seem petite compared to Tigers.
Onlookers crowd in to see a resting Jaguar, but the Jaguar seems unperturbed by them.
Females, like this one, are about 20 percent smaller than males, some weighing less than 100 pounds. The spot patterns on a Jaguar’s face are unique making it possible to identify individuals.
Jaguars have rather large heads and powerful jaw musculature that enable them to crush dense bones and the armor-plated shells of turtles. Those large canine teeth can puncture the skulls of capybara. Adjusted for body size, Jaguar have the greatest bite force among cats, along with Clouded Leopards, and ahead of Lions and Tigers.
Jaguar prey have no safe avenues of escape, with the big cat’s ability to climb trees in pursuit, ambush and attack prey on land, or drown them under water. It’s no wonder they are the dominant apex predator of the South American rainforest.