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HomeOpinionGreat-grandson of jaguar hunter now protects cats in the Pantanal

Great-grandson of jaguar hunter now protects cats in the Pantanal


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Mané Brabo hunted jaguars in the Pantanal with a javelin, a kind of spear, and with dogs. The future reserved for the great-grandson of the hunter the protection of the currently threatened feline, one of the symbol species of Brazil.

Brabo was the nickname of Manoel Quintiliano. The name he was known by obviously had to do with his work.

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Get close enough to the jaguars (panthera onca) to use a javelin (or javelin) is not as simple as you might imagine. Hence the presence of dogs, which tracked the felines and guided the hunters to corner the animal. The javelin also had two lateral points, almost like a trident, which could be useful against feline kicks.

Jaguars were just one of the animals hunted by Mané Brabo.

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Despite his name, his performance was not about hunting for adventure, trophies and counts of animals killed. The Brabo hunted to support the family, which he did from the sale of the coveted feathers and skins of Brazilian wild animals, says Diego Viana, coordinator of the Felinos Pantaneiros Program, of the IHP (Instituto Homem Pantaneiro), about his paternal great-grandfather.

Manoel was born in 1894. His activity as a hunter, therefore, occurred in the first half of the last century.

Hunting was only prohibited in Brazil in early 1967, as of Law 5,197. According to the legislation, in addition to prohibiting the capture, pursuit, destruction and collection of animals, the trade in products and objects that involved hunting them was also prohibited.

“One of the areas he went to hunt jaguars was the Serra do Amolar. And today I’m going to that region to look after them”, says Viana. “This has always been linked to my family. When I put myself in this conflict, I’ve been on both sides.”

Viana says that the performance of his great-grandfather, who died before he was born, as a jaguar hunter was always a source of pride in the family. “It was an example of bravery.”

Apart from family stories about the hunter ancestor, jaguars were always present in Viana’s imagination. During his childhood, he used to go with his family to a farm in the Miranda region, in Mato Grosso do Sul. And there were several times when he heard stories of jaguars killing cattle in the region.

“I was also afraid, I thought the jaguar was coming to attack me. The whole culture aroused various feelings”, says the expert.

Viana says that every Pantanal native is afraid, but at the same time respects and admires the jaguars.

Amidst Pantanal feelings and stories, Viana had the impetus to work with animals and, logically, with jaguars.

“All the pictures I have of him [do bisavô] they are hunting photos. It was all over the house. It always bothered me a little to see a lot of pictures of dead animals”, says Viana, suggesting a possible trigger for his current dedication to conservation.

Despite the obvious difference in Manoel and Viana’s relationship with the surrounding nature, the expert reaffirms the importance of recognizing and valuing the past, the knowledge of the Pantanal peoples —including the preservation of the region’s culture is one of the purposes of Instituto Homem Pantaneiro .

The zagaia itself is a symbol of this. According to Viana, the weapon was part of the indigenous tradition and ended up being used by the Pantanal people later on.

The specialist also points out that, despite the obvious problems regarding the hunters and their deleterious action, they eventually participated in the process of discovering the animal.

“Those who brought knowledge about the jaguar were hunters. In the first scientific works, hunters accompanied and presented the region. Here in the Pantanal, farmers paved the way for science in the Serra do Amolar”, says Viana.

But, logically, the shared knowledge was full of biases. Hunters were going to meet a sneaky wild animal with enormous strength. The contact of landowners with these felines, on the other hand, often resulted in loss of herd and, consequently, damage —avoiding this conflicting contact is one of the IHP’s arms of action.

“Their perception was that it was a dangerous animal. The Pantanal population received information from these people”, says Viana. “It is totally valid knowledge, we learned from these reports. However, like any cultural aspect, we evolve.”

In part, the origin of the pantaneiro’s cultural fear and respect for the jaguar imagery may have connections with these initial reports.

And part of Viana’s current conservation work is to seek, based on scientific information, to undo the image of terror in relation to these felines and to show the real and natural behavior of the cat, which probably will not attack anyone for no reason.

“The more and more we learn about jaguars, the more we want to value everything that has passed from history, but to create a new history”, says the researcher.

And part of the new times has already begun. In the same way that family members were proud of the jaguar-hunting ancestor, today the pride is for the conservationist who looks after the endangered animal.

Despite the ongoing work in which Viana participates, the Pantanal culture of fear of jaguars is still stronger — after all, it is historical.

“Watch out for the jaguar.” That’s what the elders in the family say, according to Viana, when the researcher goes to do field work.

And remember the supposed bravery present in ancient hunters to the point of being able to chase jaguars with spears? The researcher reports that the braves with the spears had limits. “There was always someone with a gun behind them”, emphasizes Viana.

The journalist traveled to the Pantanal at the invitation of GM (General Motors)

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