Mamirauá jaguars live normally on trees during the flood season: they hunt, mate, rest, raise their cubs. This behavior only exists here!
There are many remarkable experiences in the life of a person who is passionate about wildlife – spotting a jaguar, Panthera onca, is certainly one of them.
The Mamirauá Sustainable Development Reserve, within which Uakari Lodge is located, has the highest known density of jaguars in the world: an estimated 16 individuals per 100 km². Despite this, spotting the largest cat in the Americas here is not easy, the forest is dense and the jaguars are well known for their elusive behaviour. Usually we see traces that these animals are very comfortable around here, in the trails that we do in the dry season it is not uncommon to find their tracks for example.
Since I arrived here, in the second half of 2019, we were surprised by a few spontaneous sightings (I was in one of them !! 😀), even on the day I arrived in Tefé I learned that one of the inn’s tours had seen a melanic jaguar, also known as black jaguar or black panther, which is actually the same species, Panthera onca, but which by a mutation (which occurs in approximately 10% of the population only) has an accumulation of melanin, but when seen under the light it is possible to observe the rosettes, the spots that are very pronounced in the yellow jaguars and that are unique to each individual.
In the last sighting we heard, our local guide Alan and three tourists were surprised on their way back from a ride through a jaguar that was swimming across the river. In fact, jaguars are an exception to the rule that cats do not like water, especially here at the Mamirauá floodplains where river water rises an average of 10 meters every year, taking over the entire reserve and leaving very little or almost no dry earth for at least 3 months.
It is precisely because of this particularity that research on jaguars started in Mamirauá, after all, how does this land mammal deal with an environment in which there is no ground for three months? One of the main hypotheses was that during this period, jaguars migrated to surrounding non-floodable areas. The researchers from the Iauaretê Project at Mamirauá Institute then placed radio necklaces with GPS on some individuals and monitored their location for a year.
What they discovered was an unprecedented and exclusive behavior: the jaguars not only stay in the reserve area all year round, but live normally (they hunt, mate, rest, raise their young) on the trees (Apuís fig trees are preferred) during the full. Through collars, researchers can also locate jaguars in the field and thus learn more about the ecology of these cats in the floodplain environment. They learned, for example, that the jaguar’s diet also changes, during the dry season they eat more alligators and in the flood they hunt sloths and howler monkeys, which are arboreal animals that eat leaves (and therefore have a slower metabolism, facilitating hunting on the heights).
It is possible to integrate one of these expeditions into the Jaguar Expedition program, a special package offered by Uakari Lodge. The idea is to offer guests the opportunity to accompany researchers from the Iauaretê Project in monitoring, and thus observe this great cat in its natural environment, generating environmental education for visitors and the local population (who act as guides, field assistants) , income for local communities and for the research and conservation of jaguars in the Amazon.
Credits (images and text): Cynthia Lebrão