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HomeOpinionInstitute uses jaguar fame to raise awareness of Pantanal cattle ranchers

Institute uses jaguar fame to raise awareness of Pantanal cattle ranchers


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Being an emblematic animal can have its good and not so pleasant sides. Where the jaguar lives, as in the Pantanal, all eyes are looking for it — although it doesn’t necessarily want to show up. For always being in the head and in the local imagination, the animal also ends up taking blame that is not its own and, in the most extreme cases, is slaughtered for revenge.

Was an ox killed? It was the jaguar. Calf gone? Ounce. A dog disappeared? Ounce.

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Could it have been a jaguar? No doubt. But not always.

“All that fear and respect towards the jaguar attracts responsibility for anything that happens. Even in areas where there are puma (concolor cougar) and painted (panthera onca) will always say that it was the guinea fowl that ate it”, says Diego Viana, coordinator of the Felinos Pantaneiros Program, of the IHP (Instituto Homem Pantaneiro).

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There are times when guinea fowl take the blame even when a non-cat is responsible, such as snake attacks.

But it’s not just the cat’s fame that causes confusion. The handling of herds without proper controls plays an important role in these stories, says the president of the IHP, Ângelo Rabelo.

He mentions, for example, taking care, when the cows are giving birth, to collect the cattle in places where there are electric fences. “Historically, on very large farms, the calf was born in the field. The guy goes the next day, sees that one was born and died. [Acha que] It’s the jaguar”, says Rabelo.

The president of the IHP gives the example of a farm that claimed to have lost 300 head of cattle to the jaguar. “I said: ‘there must be a thief’s hand there, right?'”, he says.

Handling animals in the Pantanal is not necessarily simple. Among complicating factors are the large distances in the biome and, depending on the size of the property, the number of employees —mainly for smaller farms where, basically, only members of a family work.

In addition, Viana claims that the origin of who runs the farm may also have some impact on this perception. It is not uncommon, he says, for large properties in the Pantanal to be purchased these days by groups not originally from the region.

“In this profile of outsiders, it is very important for us to present this traditional knowledge”, says Viana.

This does not mean, however, that the Pantanal cattle ranchers themselves are prepared for this type of identification of attacks — after all, if that were the case, the jaguar would not be a scapegoat.

“This is one of our jobs. We go to the farms to train or remind the workers. We reinforce this traditional knowledge that the Pantanal dweller has to identify what is a case of jaguar, a case of puma or another cause of death of the herd”, says Viana.

There are ways to differentiate who was responsible for the attack, such as the characteristics of the bites, the footprints around and the areas of the prey that were consumed. Even the size of the dead animal can give clues as to who carried out the attack, considering that the jaguar is larger and has the potential to attack larger prey.

But the situation seems to be slowly changing. According to Rabelo, the new generations of ranchers in the Pantanal are increasingly strict with the management of their herds. “And the generation that is arriving now and buying the areas works at the tip of the pen. Any type of damage is treated with priority”, says the president of the IHP.


Part of the work carried out at the IHP is to travel through the Pantanal (recently, the institute expanded its partnership with the automotive company General Motors and received another truck to perform this service and more money) getting in touch with landowners to show them how to avoid contact between jaguars and herds, in addition to making them aware of these big cats.

One of these forms of prevention is the electric fence itself. The system works with the first electrified wire staying 20 to 30 cm away from the ground; the second is not electrified and the third wire must receive current. There is already an indication for the use of a fourth wire, also not electrified, says Viana.

The shock that the jaguar takes when trying to cross the fence is not lethal, according to Viana.

The coordinator of the Felinos Pantaneiros Program had his first contact with electric fences —he even declares that he has been constantly receiving shocks as part of his daily work— as a tool for mitigating conflicts during an exchange he made to South Africa, still in faculty.

After that, Viana exchanged information with researcher Rafael Hoogesteijn, a member of the Panthera Brasil organization, who has been working with the use of fences for decades and accompanied the beginning of the application of this tool by the IHP.

Despite being an existing idea, the IHP is trying to scale up the initiative in the Pantanal.

Another action that is indicated by the IHP are light repellents. It is a small device with several LEDs on its surface that flash in different colors and frequencies. According to the institute, the strangeness that the object causes in the jaguar makes it move away from the place.

According to Viana, however, these repellents are a momentary strategy, considering that, eventually, jaguars get used to the presence of strange lights. The idea is to use this tool only during calving times and in more vulnerable areas of the property.

There are, however, even simpler behaviors, which are already put into practice as part of the Pantanal culture. One of them is to collect the animals from the pasture or place them in protected places.

Viana says that part of the work that the IHP does is to show producers and riverside dwellers that it is their actions that facilitate or hinder the task of preying on the jaguar.

“Thinking about dogs and pigs, you take prey that is much easier to kill than any wild species. Even a capybara defends itself more than a dog or a pig”, says Viana.

For example, considering that cases predominate at night, placing dogs in protected places at night makes it more difficult for a jaguar to ambush them.

Protecting animals in enclosures, however, is not necessarily the perfect antidote. A Sheet he was on a farm in Nhecolândia, one of the regions of the Pantanal, which, some time ago, had lost, during one night, countless sheep, raised for food inside the property.

Guess the culprit?

If you are thinking of a jaguar, go back to the beginning of the text.

The sheep’s executioner was a puma.

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