|The Pantanal 2011
Jaguar, Capybara, and Coati
The jaguar is exclusive to the Western Hemisphere. The jaguar's present range extends from the Southern United States and
Mexico across much of Central America and south to Paraguay and northern Argentina. Apart from a known and possibly
breeding population in southern Arizona, the cat has largely been extirpated from the United States since the early 20th
century. The jaguar is the third-largest feline after the tiger and the lion, and the largest feline in the Western Hemisphere. The
jaguar has an exceptionally powerful bite, even relative to the other big cats. This allows it to pierce the shells of armoured
reptiles such as Caiman and to employ an unusual killing method: it bites directly through the skull of prey between the ears to
deliver a fatal bite to the brain.
The largest Jaguars in the Americas are in the Pantanal. Likewise, the Pantanal affords one of the best opportunities to
observe Jaguars in their natural habitat. The jaguar hunts at night and enjoys sitting on river banks in the day time.
The portion of the trip where we sought out jaguars was our stay at the Jaguar Research Center which is close to the
Meeting-of-the Rivers National Park. We spent three nights there on a boat lodge that was anchored to a river bank. From
there we took small boats up the river looking for jaguar.
Taking pictures of jaguars was challenging as they preferred to lie
down in dark shady places under trees behind vines and shrubs.
Fortunately, we had excellent guides in Akos and our Brazilian
guide, Fisher. With their keen eye sight, they located half a dozen
jaguars during our three night stay. Ours was the only group in 70
days to stay three nights and see jaguars four days in a row. We
felt very fortunate in our encounters.
The Capybara is the largest living rodent in the world. Capybaras have heavy, barrel-shaped bodies and short heads with
reddish-brown fur on the upper part of their body that turns yellowish-brown underneath. Adult capybaras grow to 3.5 to 4.50
feet in length, stand 20 to 25 inches tall at the withers and typically weigh 80 to 150 pounds., Capybaras have slightly webbed
feet, no tail and 20 teeth. Their back legs are slightly longer than their front legs and their muzzles are blunt with eyes, nostrils,
and ears on top of their head. Capybara are semi-aquatic mammals found wild in much of South America in densely forested
areas near bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, swamps, ponds and marshes, as well as flooded savannah and along rivers
in tropical forest. Capybaras are herbivores, grazing mainly on grasses and aquatic plants. An adult capybara will eat 6 to 8
pounds of grass per day.
We found the capybara sweet and lovable. They were sociable and sometimes moved in groups of fifteen or twenty.
Coati are members of the raccoon family. Coatis often hold the tail erect, and it used as such to keep troops of coatis
together in tall vegetation. The coati snout is long and extremely flexible and can be rotated up to 60° in any direction.Coatis
have strong limbs to climb and dig, and have a reputation for intelligence, like their fellow procyonid, the raccoon. They prefer
to sleep or rest in elevated places and niches, like the rainforest canopy, in crudely-built sleeping nests. Coatis are active day
and night. We found them very shy and only had a couple decent close encounters with them where we had been standing
quietly for a long time.
These Coati came to a water hole at dusk where we were standing quietly waiting for wildlife to come to the water hole.
Our other coati encounter occurred while sitting in a bird hide behind a one way glass. A group of coati wandered in and we
got their photographs when they climbed a tree.