The last four tracker orientated blog posts have mentioned much about what the South African trackers are doing to help Projeto Onçafari in Brazil. They are roughly half way through their stint here in the Pantanal, and I have decided that this is the ideal opportunity for me to introduce you to some of the jaguars whom the trackers, and the rest of the team, spend each day trying to find.
Using unique rosette patterns and other physical features we are able to identify individuals. Each cat is different. Sometimes it takes a little practice to train the eye what to look for, but after a while you can start to recognize who is who. It also stands to reason that the more time you spend observing an individual, the more you get to know his/her personality.
In the last two years we have already identified 27 individuals. Some jaguars are once-offs, coming into the area to explore; others are resident, using Caiman Ecological Refuge as their home. Below I will briefly introduce a handful of the jaguars that the project is working with, the main players so to speak. Enjoy the Jaguars of Onçafari…
This is the resident and dominant male in the core research area. He is huge. Telltale battle scars on his face suggest he has been around for many years. We estimate his age at somewhere between 10 and 13. His name ‘Fantasma’ can be directly translated to ‘Ghost’. One of the main reasons he acquired this name is his ability to just appear out of nowhere. We can go weeks without seeing any trace of him and then suddenly he will arrive. He has been seen by nearly every camera trap we have set up and we believe his territory to be gigantic!
Esperanza means ‘hope’ in Portuguese. She was given this name as she provided the Onçafari team with the hope and encouragement that we are achieving our goals. She is one of the most important female jaguars of the project, with her territory falling very central to or research area. She is currently wearing a GPS radio collar, which has allowed us to follow her movements very closely. We estimate her birth date around 2007. She has had three litters that we are aware of. 2009, February 2012 and May 2013.
Born in February 2012, she is the daughter of Esperanza. She is a very relaxed jaguar and proved to the team that the strategies being applied to habituate these cats were working. Natureza went independent from her mom at the young age of 14 months. Upon going independent she was driven out of her natal area by her mom and sightings have now become very infrequent of this gorgeous female
The word ‘Chuva’ means rain in Portuguese. She was captured in October 2011 in the pouring rain. As a sign of happiness, potential, fertility and fresh beginnings she was named Chuva. In 2012 she was seen a lot, but it appears as if Teorema may have driven her out of her homeland. Sadly her collar no longer works. She had a daughter back in January 2012 and this cub was named Garoa, meaning drizzle.
The female offspring of Chuva. Garoa was born around January 2012. A number of recent sightings of her alone suggest that she went independent at around 14-15 months of age.
Fitted with a GPS collar back in April this year Teorema is also a valuable asset to the team. The technology on her collar is such that we are able to get a very good idea of exactly what land she is using and when. Teorema is believed to have been born around 2006 and has had two litters that we know of. The first we are aware of was of a male back in October 2011. The second litter is a single cub born in April this year. This single cub has been seen once in person, and a handful of times on camera trap. Teorema’s territory surrounds the large lake in the area and as such she is a very aquatic jaguar. Tracking her often involves wading waist deep in piranha-infested water. At only 3,5 months of age her little cub was swimming hundreds of meters through open water!
Teorema’s advanced collar allows us to get great insight into her movements. This Google Earth image allows us to see her movements over the last 5 months.The distance from the top point to bottom point is roughly 22 km.
Activity Colour Key:
Red – high
Orange – medium
Blue – low
White – outliers
When one zooms into the highest activity areas one can begin to see individual points. Each point represents two hours. In the top left you can see the high accumulation of points – this is the den site where her cub was born on 21 April this year.
A camera trap picture of Teorema’s cub aged 3 and a half months.
Teorema’s son, born back in October 2011. He went independent from his mother at 17-18 months. Sightings of this male have dried up in the last few months, as I believe he has had to move out of the area largely due to the presence of the much larger Fantasma. He was named Pythagoras, due to a set of clear triangular shapes on his coat. His mother was subsequently named Theorem to make up Pythagoras Theorem.
Yara is believed to be the oldest female jaguar that we currently view at Caiman Ecological Refuge. We estimate her to have been born in 2002. The Jaguar Conservation Fund collared her many years ago, in 2005. That collar has since fallen off and she continues to roam around in her old age. She is a very large and relaxed female that oozes power and presence. Sightings and interactions between Yara and Esperanza suggest that there is the possibility that the two may be related. Yara must have had many litters in her life; the one we know very well was in August last year.
Born in August 2012, this jaguar can no longer be called a cub. The name just stuck and he will be renamed shortly. Yara’s cub has a wonderful temperament and is very relaxed around the cars. He has provided me with my two best sightings in the last 4 months. In late August 2013 he was seen with puncture wounds in his face and neck, this all suggests that he is reaching independence and starting to become a threat to the other male jaguars in the area. I am always amazed at how large this jaguar is for his age
To learn more about any of the organisations involved in this project click on the links below:
Caiman Ecological Refuge
Londolozi Game Reserve
Written by Adam Bannister
Photographed by: Mario Haberfeld, Adam Bannister, Diogo Lucatelli,