It looks like we have finally found the equivalent Jaguar to the Londolozi “mother leopard;” that magical animal that is wired slightly differently and relaxed enough to be habituated to a vehicle full of people. Of course the history of Leopard viewing at Londolozi and in fact the entire Sabi Sands was changed by the discovery of that beautiful animal and it is our hope that this Jaguar female will do the same for Jaguar viewing in the region; speaking of hope, the name given to the Jaguar female is Esperança which means hope in Portuguese! Bearing in mind that we employ similar habituation strategies to those used by John Varty and Elmon Mhlongo when they did their ground breaking work with the “mother Leopard” at Londolozi, the successful habituation of this animal is in effect something that Londolozi has certainly played a part in.
The habituation of Esperança could also have positive spin offs for big cats elsewhere; perhaps the successful habituation of Esperanza will inspire stakeholders elsewhere in the world; if you can habituate Lions, Leopards and Jaguars, whose to say that habituation of other big cats would not be possible; imagine the huge tracts of land that could be conserved with beautiful “Londolozi like” lodges where one could visit to see Snow Leopard, Siberian Tiger, Amur Tiger and Leopard etc. etc. I think that the team behind the Jaguar habituation thinks along similar lines to the Londolozi team, being that every animal can be shown to those that wish to view it if you can find the key to unlock those secrets that make it possible.
All over the world people are finding solutions to make previously difficult species more accessible; snorkeling with Humpback Whales, sitting with groups of Mountain Gorillas etc. etc. imagine how many wonderful parts of the world could be conserved if this ball keeps rolling! While on the subject of habituation it must be emphasized that this is very different to being tamed or domesticated; the Jaguar habituation is nothing more than gradually increasing the tolerance of these animals to the presence of vehicles with people on board through techniques that prioritize respect for nature and the target animal. The Jaguars continue to be wild, but stop seeing vehicles as a threat after hours spent with them by our habituation team in the habituation vehicle.If you would like to follow the Jaguar habituation story more closely, please sign up the the “Projeto Oncafari” Facebook site.
The plot thickens:
When Mario Haberfeld and Simon Bellingham originally set out to habituate the elusive Jaguar using time tested techniques employed by the Londolozi team on an equally elusive feline, the Leopard; they tried to raise money for the project by producing a documentary. In their searching they were able to find a female Jaguar on a wonderful property in the Pantanal that was relaxed enough to be filmed for long enough to make a promotion for the documentary. The respectful way in which they approached one Jaguar night after night allowed them to acquire the much needed footage; as it turns out this particular female turns out to be Esperança! The beautiful images of the Jaguar female lying in the tree like a “Londolozi Leopard” was taken by the third member of the habituation team Marcelo Mesquita de salles Oliveira whilst sitting in the habituation vehicle only a few meters from her!
Written by: Simon Bellingham