©Wolfgang Kaehler

Çaraca

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Pepe and the Wolf

After a dinner of grilled beef and stewed vegetables warmed on a wood fire, we gather on the church terrace. Only the seminary’s dim lights and the brilliant stars compete with the darkness of the surrounding forest. We are waiting for the maned wolf — a creature red like a fox, with slender, delicate legs. Shivering beneath thick blankets and sipping hot tea, we wait, watch and listen. I anticipate a slender nose peering above the steps and a canine akin to a sheltie trotting up to a tray filled with bones and pork. We wait, whisper, and wait some more. Suddenly the wolf appears, scampering up the stairs then cautiously approaching the food. But instead of a sheltie or fox — this is like a great dane. He stands nearly three and a half feet tall and chomps on the meat, casting furtive glances at us as we sit merely a few feet away.

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Maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus)

Hope of seeing the maned wolf, South America’s largest canine, brought us to Brazil’s Çaraca National Park. A seminary founded in the 1700s and still run by the Catholic Church, serves as a pousada for guests. Here the brothers continue a tradition of putting a meal out each night for the pair of maned wolves residing in the park. Pepe, a jovial brother, acts as our host. Each morning he gives us tips on Portuguese as he helps us fry our eggs on the rustic kitchen’s wood stove. He teaches us to say bom dia (pronounced bong dee a) and returns our attempted greeting with a hearty “good moorrning” and a chuckle. Pepe chats with guests telling stories about the lobo guara (the wolf) and the seminary. During the day we head for a hike on the many trails that wind through the forest in this convergence zone between the Atlantic Forest and the savanna ecosystems. We venture to waterfalls and caves and watch for titi monkeys and kiskadees, caracaras, tanagers, and finches. As we return in the afternoon, Pepe greets us as he sits in the sunshine meticulously beading a rosary on the church terrace.

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          Titi monkey                        Breakfast                            Pepe with tourists

Planning Your Visit: You can reserve a room at Pousada Santuario do Çaraca. Contact: (31) 3837-2698. August is a good time to see and photograph wildlife, but be sure to bring a warm parka for the evenings on the terrace. Once the sun goes down, it gets chilly!

Take a Guide:

Regina Ribeiro, our guide, helped arrange accommodations and transportation. But most importantly, she is a knowledgeable naturalist and was an amazing wildlife scout. To reach her, email: brasisre@gold.com.br

Wolfgang Kaehler and Regina Ribeiro will lead a tour to see the Muriqui monkeys, Çaraca, Rio de Janeiro as well as Brazil’s Pantanal. The tour is form July 4th -20th, 2011. For more information please visit: http://www.wkaehlerphoto.com/photoTourTitles/Pantanal_2011[1].pdf

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For more photos please visit:  www.wkaehlerphoto.com

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