Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Purple prose

Sometimes I hate this blog. I hate getting back from a long hot morning, tired and covered in sweat, horsefly bites, and the residue of sunscreen, and having to think what to say. More than that I hate reading what I wrote the day before: the purplish, repetitious prose, the flat, tired-minded images, the banality of it all. It is hard to describe 155 cats and more in a year and still come up with new words, new phrases, new ideas. After nine months watching cats I'm worn. My words too I fear.

So sometimes I hate this blog. And then this morning happens. News comes of a jaguar on the Cuiabá, so we turn in the river and speed back. Round the next bend is a single boat beside a beach; and on the beach, striding confident in flawless morning light, a different jaguar, a male jaguar with his right eye sunken and lost. One of the best-known and most-loved jaguars here, he is the star of a YouTube video of a cat killing a caiman. His name, I regret, is Mick Jaguar.

The sound, these days, of a thrilling wildlife encounter, is the chatter of Nikon and Canon. The thrill may be measured by its intensity. This morning the cameras chattered and chipped without rest for minutes on end as this muscled mass of dappled cat walked the beach, his beach, and wove through the tangled trees which tumbled into the water. He went up to the bank, and - in a pose which outdid the many jaguar photos from Belize Zoo which are strewn across the internet - he came up from behind a massive fallen tree and stood on it, his one good eye assessing the river and his camera-clicking subjects.

We saw him for many minutes more, moving through the mesh of vines, palms and saplings on the top of the bank, sitting again and looking. Finally leaving, into the forest, bound who knows where.

The jaguar-watchers left too. After all on the Cuiabá there was still a jaguar to see. This was Ruth, the female we half-saw on our first day here. Today we all-saw her, dropping from the bank to the water's edge, nudging through the floating mat of hyacinth in search of caimans, sending a family of loudly sneezing capybaras swimming in panic across the river. We all-saw her today, her sagging belly and swollen teats. She clearly has young cubs somewhere near, and was just as clearly tricking Peter the other day, who in turn was cheating on Bianca.

I have not even mentioned the six giant otters this morning, preening and playing in the eddies, the piping-guans eating clay, the howler monkey mothers hauling their young through the trees like backpacks and bumbags. So here I am, sweaty, bitten and coated in sunscreen, mind tired, words purple and repetitive, blogging again, walking the same worn wordy circles around cats. Utterly astounding cats by a hot river in Brazil.

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                                    13
puma Puma concolor                                    14

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