The Brazilian Pantanal is high on the list of popular places for nature enthusiasts to visit on a dedicated wildlife holiday. Many come with the hope of fulfilling a life-long ambition to catch a glimpse of the magnificent, secretive apex predator of the South American jungle, the Jaguar. For those who embark on a professional Jaguar tour to the Pantanal region, with the aid of local guides who know the area and the big cats' habits intimately, the possibilities for a sighting are very real. |
While the itinerary of a Jaguar tour will be primarily focused on tracking the big cat, the dense tropical wetland of the Pantanal is home to myriad other species as well, some of which are detailed below.
The Abundant Avian Life of the Pantanal
Encompassing an area of approximately 75,000 sqm over three countries (Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay), the Pantanal is home to over 1,000 avian species (migratory and resident) – including some that are endangered or threatened.
The Jabiru is the unofficial symbol of the Pantanal and can be sighted in large numbers fishing around the rivers or perched high in the branches, guarding their large, precariously balanced nests. The Wood Stork is also quite prolific during breeding season, as is the striking-coloured Roseate Spoonbill, the Pantanal's answer to the flamingo (although it's actually not in the flamingo family, it has the same distinctive pink plumage).
Other species the keen birdwatcher can expect to encounter are the red-legged Pied Lapwing, Ringed and Amazon Kingfisher, Large-billed Tern, Yellow-billed Tern, the comical looking Guira Cuckoo (known as the 'punk-rock bird', for its spiky head feathers), the Bat Falcon, Black-collared Hawk, the Monk and Yellow-chevroned Parakeet, and numerous species of toucan, including the largest, the Toco Toucan. For the lucky ones, there may be a sighting of the rare Hyacinth Macaw or the Solitary Eagle.
Big Cats, Birds, and More…
The biologically diverse eco-system of the Pantanal is, quite literally, teeming with life, and the conditions provide the ideal habitat for some 300 mammalian species, nearly 500 reptile and amphibian species, and 9,000 invertebrate sub-species. Many of these are highly sought after in their own right by serious wildlife enthusiasts, and a rare sighting of the Marsh Deer or the Giant River Otter can come as an unexpected thrill for anyone on a dedicated Jaguar tour in the region.
Other, more common, species that may be sighted in the Pantanal are the Brazilian Tapir, Yacare Caiman, Giant Anteater, Yellow Anaconda, Maned Wolf, Bush Dog, Golden Tegu, Red-footed Tortoise, Green Iguana, and the world's largest rodent, the surprisingly cute Capybara. The Jaguar isn't the only feline species of the Pantanal, and it's kept company by the Ocelot, Jaguarundi, Pantanal Cat, Puma, Geoffroy's Cat, Pampas Cat, and the near-threatened Margay.
As the world's largest tropical wetland (around the size of the entire UK) the Pantanal is also richly vegetated with over 3,500 known species of aquatic and land plants, and its forests, rivers, and open marshes make it one of the most rewarding places in South America for wildlife watching.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in Jaguar watching. Being passionate about her subject, Marissa chooses the expert-led Jaguar tour itineraries organised by NatureTrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of wildlife in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.
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