Tuesday, 22 September 2015


She was there again this morning among the dust and dried leaves on the river's bank, and with her her scar-eyed suitor. Again they rolled and they licked their paws, they stretched and, when the sun on her face grew too much, Bianca shifted to the shade. Peter followed, the lure of her scent too strong to resist, but her belly-deep growls made it clear she was in no mood for his touch.

I have received two messages about Bianca this morning. The first, on Twitter, came from a Naturetrek guest who was here two years ago, whose group had the privilege of naming Bianca as their photos showed she had never been seen in the region before.

The second was an email from Naun Amable, a Naturetrek leader from Peru who has spent many months watching the jaguars of these rivers, and who will be here with me on the Brazilian leg of my South America's Big Cats tour which begins in Chile in a few days. He was on the river near us this morning and has been kind enough to share this photo of Bianca.

Perpetually smiling Naun

On our way to the jaguars we met the Pantanal's other peak mammalian predator: the giant otter. When I lived in Parque Nacional Noel Kempff Mercado in the northeast of Bolivia, some eighteen years ago, I saw these fabulous animals every day; yet still they amaze me now. Ours today was a group of six, perhaps seven, adults. With them, emerging from their holt this week for the first time, were four small pups, being marshalled through the currents, past the caimans, past the jaguars and the tourists, to a new holt. At times one would be left behind and, realising it, would squeal in indignation. Each time, an adult would turn back, take the pup in its jaws and drag it, above water and below, to the safety of its loud, sleek family.

I have so much more to say, of bare-faced currassows and chestnut-vented conebills, of Mato Grosso antbirds and a little cuckoo; but in a few minutes we leave again for the river, to see once more which of its wonderful animals we can find in the afternoon heat.

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