This is the third in my series of blog posts about my recent trip to the Pantanal in Brazil. You can follow these links to the previous posts:
This post is going to focus on an interaction we saw between a jaguar and a capybara. Please remember to click on the image to see a larger version.
If you are interested in taking a similar trip, I highly recommend Ailton Lara of Pantanal Nature.
The photo above shows a lone male capybara on the bank of the Cuiabá River. Capybaras prefer to live in groups called packs but most packs consist of several females and their young and one or possibly two adult males. That means that a lot of adult male capybaras are not part of a pack. This leaves them more vulnerable to predatation. There are about 5,000 jaguars in the Pantanal and one of them has its sights on this guy.
So far the capybara is oblivious to its danger. They like to nap in the sun during the day but always stay close to the water.
Those huge capy teeth are not much protection against jaguars who have even larger, pointy ones.
The jaguar emerged from the undergrowth on stealthy feet.
The cat was quite a ways from the capybara at this point. I’m not good at guessing distances but I’d say it was a couple hundred feet. Many jaguar lengths, but our guide Ailton said it would not need to get much closer before it would attack. I was rooting for the capybara. Both animals were completely ignoring us and our boat and the six or eight other boatloads of people who were watching from the river.
The capy only looked like he was napping because he alerted to the jaguar almost immediately. He sat up and started barking, about one bark every thirty seconds or so.
The jaguar lay down in the grass to wait for the capybara to forget about him. Strange as it seems, Ailton says this happens quite often.
Ailton recognized this jaguar and called him “W” because the spots on his forehead form a W. I couldn’t really see it at the time but it is obvious in the photos.
Mr. Capybara did not seem to be likely to forget about the jaguar, although he did lie down at one point. Mostly he sat there looking suspicious and barking occasionally.
The jaguar appeared to be losing interest.
It was pretty cute to see the big cat behaving just like a house cat.
While jaguars certainly do eat a lot of capybaras, those huge teeth and strong jaws really come in handy when hunting caiman (which are like alligators only different). They grab them behind the head and crush their skulls.
Finally the jaguar decided to make his move.
The capy decided to make his move too and jumped right off the cliff and into the river. Sadly, I missed that magic moment with my camera. Stupid me, I was watching the jaguar. Anyway, the current quickly pulled him downstream but he never stopped watching the jaguar and barking.
The jaguar also watched the capybara and followed him downstream. Unfortunately for him, all the people in the boats followed too.
Eventually the capybara found a good place to stop along the opposite bank. He sat in the water watching both the jaguar and the boats. The boats ignored him though. I was the only one who watched what he did and photographed him. Stupid people.
Okay, jaguars are pretty photogenic what with those spots, but there’s no reason to show off.
The jaguar wanted to cross the river but no matter where he went there was the same group of camera-welding people in six to eight small boats.
The boats and the jaguar made the capybara nervous. I was still the only one paying him any attention…except for the jaguar.
He was still barking periodically, warning all the other capybaras in the area that a jaguar was on the prowl.
Eventually he decided to leave and headed off back upstream along the bank opposite the jaguar. You can see in this photo that he has a large section of missing hair. There is also a fresh wound there. I suspect this was from another capybara. All of the male capybaras seem to be missing fur and be covered with scars while the females look to be in much better shape.
The jaguar settled down for a while, convinced that he was not going to be dining on capybara anytime soon.
Finally the capybara could relax. The jaguar wasn’t following him so neither were the boats.
At this point our little group–me, Coral and Ailton–decided to leave. All of the other boats stayed though so I don’t know how long it took for the jaguar to finally be able to cross the river. This was really an amazing experience but I kind of think even we should have left a little earlier. It’s easy to get caught up in wildlife viewing but it’s important to remember that these animals are in it for their lives, not just so that we can photograph them.