Every morning we leave camp at first light in search of Jaguars. We continually scan the ground for any clues from the previous night. It is a little bit like a complicated treasure hunt. Often, at this time, we come across the tracks of the biggest resident male Jaguar in the area…Fantasma
The portuguese word ‘Fantasma’ has many meanings when translated into English…
ghost, phantasm, haunt, apparition, bogle, eidolon, phantom, spectre, spirit and spook
Fantasma was given this name by the Jaguar habituation team because he is hardly ever seen, but he is everywhere. He moves through the grasslands and thickets like a ghost. He leaves us clues that he was there. Gigantic tracks embedded in the earth, remains of carcasses feasted on in the undergrowth and most decisively he appears in camera traps.
Research conducted on a nearby ranch estimated that the average size of a male Jaguar’s home-range, in this area, is about 170 square kilometers. That is huge! Only when you plot the equivalent area onto a map do you begin to fully understand how large a piece of land he covers. It also makes it easier to understand why it is that we do not see him so regularly, and why it is that he appears in nearly every ‘camera trap site’ that we have used.
Members of the Onçafari team probably see this male about 4 times a month, on average. When we do get lucky enough to actually see this apparition it is always a wondrous moment. He is massive, his body thickly set and his muscles bulging. His torn face suggests that he is old, but he shows no signs of slowing down. I have tracked this male for 7 kilometers down a road! We believe him to be the father of all the cubs and sub-adults in the area.
The best thing, however, is that when you see him he is often very relaxed. This allows for fantastic viewing. As you will see in the video below, he is a bold cat and completely in control. It is a privilege to view the ‘Phantom of the Forest’
For those of you who read and watched an earlier post about a Jaguar that ignored a perfectly good kill…well this is the same individual. If you missed out on this fascinating video you can view it below.
Written, photographed and filmed by Adam Bannister