Wednesday, 23 September 2015


I'm tired tonight and the words won't come. Sometimes, quite simply, they don't.

What did come this afternoon was Maxim, a powerful young male jaguar. Or rather we came to him as he stalked a sandbank on the river's edge. One of the east Bolivian names for the jaguar translates as wool-foot, because of the silent lightness of its tread. Maxim's tread was of wool and his gaze absolute as he approached a knot of roots. He froze, intent, determined, his mottled muscles tight, then bolted, but blundered through the roots. His capybara prizes launched for the river around us, sending up waves and barking their terror to the heat of the afternoon sun.

Maxim looked to us, a look which feigned confidence, tried to persuade this had all been part of the plan. Then he wove along the shore, in and out of the great green grass and the scrub, always looking to us, always his eyes questioning, unsure. And he was gone.

We knew this wool-footed cat was Maxim because also here was a biologist. One of the knowers of these magnificent animals, she could see from his blotches and spots who he was, and today she wote down another page in the story of his life along the river.

This evening photos are shared, and stories, broad smiles are worn, and drinks sipped. On my many tiger tours in the past decade I have known this state of my groups as the tiger high. This, tonight, thanks to Maxim and his failed attempt on the life of a capybara, thanks to Fiorella and our outstanding boatman Manuel, is the jaguar high. And I am as high as them all on this new shot of cats, as a remarkable year of my life begins to draw to its close.

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                                    4

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