We had set up the camera trap in the perfect position to film whatever animals fed on the cow carcass. This is normal procedure for the Jaguar Habituation Team. We go out early every morning and search for Jaguars. If we manage to find a carcass we will try put a camera in position. We do this so that we can learn about Jaguar habits, social interactions and the identity and number of Jaguars using the area.
In the morning we went to the carcass to assess what had happened during the night. The carcass had been fed on and dragged to the side. We were excited to view the footage on the camera trap to see which animals had visited. Could it have been a jaguar? But where was the camera trap?
It was gone! Vanished without a trace. Three of us searched the area like a crime scene. Heads down we scanned every inch of sand for any evidence of what may have happened. Eventually we found the camera about 30 meters away from its original position lying in the long grass. Relief. How would we have explained that one to the boss?
We took bets on who had moved it. Nego went for a Peccary, whilst Diogo opted for the most probable Crab-eating Fox. That left me with the unlikely one…a jaguar! We went back to camp to download the memory card. We sat transfixed as the videos played out.
The culprit was a young female Jaguar, believed to be around 15 months or so. The Onçafari Project has named this individual Garoa and has been monitoring her, her whole life. She fed briefly on the carcass before deciding the camera trap looked more appealing. She sauntered over to it and picked it up in her mouth.
She proceeded to lick the camera, biting it, playing with it and taking it for a walk. 15 minutes of inquisitive fun, all caught on camera. You can’t tell me that a Jaguar doesn’t have a sense of humour!
Jaguars have the strongest jaws of any cat, so we were lucky to find the camera, let alone retrieve it in one piece. Don’t you think this has the makings of a good advertisement?
Written by Adam Bannister
Camera trap footage by Projeto Onçafari
Photographs by Adam Bannister