The Jaguar was my “nemesis” until a few weeks back. I had tried to glimpse them a few times in different South and Central American locations and dismally failed – I had never even seen a pug mark. Last year I decided I will give myself the best chance ever at finally realising my dream of seeing a wild jaguar and I booked a trip to the most renowned place to see this elusive big cat – The Pantanal in Brazil. The Pantanal lived up to its hype and we saw our first jaguar less than a mere hour after entering the famed “Jaguar Zone” for the first time – my jaguar curse was finally broken and a new love affair has flourished. I was instantly smitten with these cats. They are much larger and more powerfully built than leopards, especially the males – they are huge! Their coat is mesmerising and they carry themselves with imposing confidence and charisma – even in the water. They know they are at the very top of the food chain here and have little to fear from any other wild creature. The lush setting of their habitat is also particularly stunning, tropical riverine systems are one of my favourite habitats to spend time in. Seeing these large spotted cats in a “jungle” setting makes them that much more exotic and mysterious. I use the word “jungle” loosely here as an aestethic description; technically in the Pantanal the riverine forests which jaguars prefer are actually Gallery Forests.
The photo depicts “Mick Jaguar” – a large male who is very recognisable due to its injured right eye. He is also the jaguar featured in the recent viral video “Jaguar attacks Crocodile”. While he is definitely not the conventional beauty contest material I found him to be very photogenic – in my eyes his “rough edges” add character, and he was more than willing to be active quite close to the boats offering me photo opportunities other than lounging about in the thick riverbank vegetation like most of the other jaguars I saw.
Tech Specs: Canon 7D Mark II | Canon EF 200-400 f4 IS USM with 1.4 Extender | f4 | 1/2000s | ISO 200