Monday, 28 September 2015


Antonio is a kindly man, with sparkling eyes and a ready smile. Though of an age at which most Europeans have turned their thoughts to retirement, he is wiry and strong and still works long days in the thuggish heat of the Pantanal. He is a truck driver, our truck driver, at SouthWild, the company which owns the Santa Tereza ranch where my group is staying until tomorrow.

This evening, as we sat at dinner, Antonio's voice was heard from outside the screen window of the dining room. 'Uma onça,' he said. Almost before my brain had registered the thought, I said to my group, 'There's a jaguar,' and ran barefoot through the door and across the grass. Torch beams shot to the forested far side of the river. A green-white eye, as bright as Antonio's, sparkled there from the hyacinth mat at the water's edge. I now ran the other way, to fetch my binoculars, and reaching the river again I could clearly see a jaguar's face above the water.

What came next was confused, for me at least, as I had passed my binoculars to my clients to give them a better look. According to colleagues, the jaguar grabbed a young capybara, then dragged it from the water and into the woods. All the while the breathy alarm barks of the hapless capybara's family could be heard in the night;

Having sat. incredulous, at the table again, and eaten pudding, we went on a drive through the night to look for mammals and birds. We were driven, of course, by Antonio, a kindly man with a ready smile who an hour before had found a jaguar and stood by the screen window of the dining room matter-of-factly announcing. 'Uma onça.'

A jaguar emerging from the Pixaim river with a young capybara
photographed by my quick-witted client George Go

Cats seen in 2015
cheetah Acinonyx jubatus fearonii                3
serval Leptailurus serval serval                    3
leopard Panthera pardus suahelicus            2
lion Panthera leo nubica                              78
snow leopard Panthera uncia                       3
jungle cat Felis chaus                                   2
tiger Panthera tigris tigris                            13
leopard Panthera pardus fusca                    4
lion Panthera leo persica                              7
leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis           15
flat-headed cat Prionailurus planiceps          1
wildcat hybrid Felis silvestris grampia/catus  1
jaguar Panthera onca                                    8