There is a myth in existence that Jaguars do not climb trees! Well, we have first hand evidence to prove this to be false. Not only did we see it, but we also managed to film it. A quick YouTube search will reveal to you that there is not much footage, filmed in the wild, to show this behaviour. Most of what you may have seen previously would have been documented in zoos and safari parks. This incident occurred in the wild, deep in the Pantanal of Brazil.
Until this event the habituation project team had managed to identify eight trees in the area which showed conclusive evidence that jaguars play and settle in their branches. We even fastened a camera trap in a tree and got some incredible results over a month. Not only did we catch a jaguar up that tree, but a mountain lion too! Thus we had the claw marks and camera trap footage…but we wanted to see it first hand.
This opportunity arose at sunset one day, when we were following an old female and her son. They moved carefully through the long grass when suddenly the youngster ran up a nearby tree. The confidence at which he approached his ascent suggested to me that he had done it many times before. He was incredibly relaxed up the tree and this allowed for some phenomenal photographic moments. As if feeling left out of the action, his mother soon joined him. Once the two of them were up there, however, it all seemed a little cramped. They cautiously maneuvered and then descended the tree.
It was a real privilege to watch these animals at play. We sat for over three hours that night as these two Jaguars proved to us that our dream of habituating wild Jaguars to vehicles is well on its way to becoming reality.
Written and photographed by Adam Bannister
Filmed by Adam Bannister and Diogo Lucatelli