©Wolfgang Kaehler

Pantanal: in search of the jaguar–Day 1


Day 1

At 5:00 a.m. the birds are like hawkers at a raucous morning market: squawking, chattering, and whistling. We are in the middle of a nature sanctuary, and a pair of toucans, a throng of monk parakeets, and a couple of crimson woodpeckers are right outside our door. We head out for a walk to spot king fishers, hyacinth macaws and kiskadees. Caymans peer up at us from a swamp then disappear beneath the surface. After breakfast we sneak through brush stalking the black-tailed marmosets and find one stretched out like a cat on a branch. Soon another joins him for a preening session. Nearby a coati mundi slips through the brush. By noon we have seen more wildlife than I had imagined we would see in days.



Yellow-billed cardinals


cocoi heron

Late afternoon we head out on a drive to a popular watering hole. We wait patiently, our eyes scanning the meadow. A crab-eating fox slips silently out of the forest, while a black-collared hawk perches above the water searching for fish. The evening is quiet and still. Suddenly a tapir the size of a Saint Bernard bursts out of its aquatic hideout. On our night drive back to the ranch, we pass hundreds of caiman eyes. Another crab-eating fox pads through the brush while a stray calf naps at the roadside.

Crab-eating fox

Crab-eating fox



Ranchers and livestock share the Pantanal with the wildlife. In Cuiaba, Wolf and I talked with a handsome young rancher, returning from his first trip to the United States. His exasperation was palpable. “They have paved roads leading to their farms. From our government, we get nothing,” he sputters. “There is no help for anyone who is working; they only create problems for us.” He goes on to tell us about the upcoming election and how the current president buys votes by offering help for the poor. “They must continue to help the poor, but why do we pay taxes and still not have education and health care? We need to pay for all of that ourselves.”


Pantaneiro and cattle

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