While the best place for organised Jaguar tours is the Brazilian Pantanal, which has a high density of the big cat and an excellent infrastructure in place for those hoping for a sighting, it's not the animal's only habitat. |
The range of Panthera onca has decreased over past decades, but there are a number of conservation initiatives in place throughout Central and South America that aim to redress the balance and establish safe havens not only for the beautiful big cat, but also for hundreds of other species of wildlife.
For wildlife lovers travelling to South America to embark on one of the excellent Jaguar tours to the Pantanal, it's worth also considering a visit to El Jaguar Reserve in Colombia.
Conservation in Action
Situated within the lush Amazon Basin area of Colombia, El Jaguar Reserve provides a refuge for a diverse array of wildlife species, including its big cat namesake. With the recent addition, in 2015, of another 5,541 acres, the reserve now encompasses 10,326 acres of rainforest.
Located in the eastern region of Colombia, before the initiative was set up in 2013 this vast area of Amazonian rainforest was at risk of deforestation to make way for lucrative oil palm plantations – leading to the inevitable destruction of the habitat of thousands of wildlife species.
Situated deep in the rainforest, 330km from the city of Villavicencio, the reserve is accessible via a 20-minute boat journey along the Guaviare River from Caño Evaristo, or by a 40-minute road trip from the village of Esteros Altos.
The terrain supports a diverse selection of vegetation across its marshlands, natural wetlands and lakes, high and lowland dense forests, and dry grass savannahs. Eco-tourism activities within the reserve take the form of boat trips – particularly to observe the famous Pink Amazon Dolphin – hiking, bird watching, and wildlife photography.
Species On the Ground
Aside from the magnificent big cat from which the reserve gets its name, some of the larger mammal species at home in the reserve include Lowland Tapirs, Giant Anteaters, Capybaras, Brown Woolly Monkeys, and Lowland Pacas.
In the Water
The reserve has a number of bodies of water and tributaries that provide a habitat for the Pink Amazon Dolphin, Giant River Otters and a huge number of fish and other aquatic species.
In the Skies
More than 300 species of migratory and resident birds have been recorded, including the endangered Horned Screamer, Crestless Curassow, Black Curassow, Blue-throated Piping Guan, Rose-breasted Chat, Brown Nunlet, Velvet-fronted Grackle and the Dot-backed Antbird, among a host of others.
Conservation Through Education
Beyond the reserve, the project, which is made possible through collaboration between the Rainforest Trust and Fundación ProAves, is raising awareness of conservation issues through environmental and biological education in local schools. Within the reserve itself, activities include monitoring wildlife species' populations and movements with camera traps; reforestation through the establishment of a nursery of native species; and eco-tourism attractions.
For those with an interest in the conservation of South and Central America's wildlife habitat, a visit to El Jaguar Reserve would make an invaluable trip in addition to one of the organised Jaguar tours to the Brazilian Pantanal. An initiative of great importance, due to the reserve's high density of species, it's a valuable opportunity to see conservation in action.
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 tours 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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