The Jaguar is the third-largest cat. An adult stands at 63/76 cm of pure muscle with a body length of 120/195 cm. It is similar to a leopard, but is sturdier, heavier and shorter and has a rounder head.
This beautiful cat is at the top of the food chain in the rainforest. It stalks and ambushes its prey, biting into its head from behind with powerful jaws. It eats most small animals and reptiles as well as larger animals like caiman, tapirs, deer etc.
It’s colouring is mostly a tawny yellow, but it can look brown to black through which their spots can be seen. The spots or rosettes are useful as camouflage in the dappled sunlight of the thick rainforest.
Adult Jaguars are solitary animals. They mate throughout the year and the female raises her two to four cubs alone. The cubs stay with their mother for one or two years.
I was told by a neighbour, the term being relative as he lived in a forest area miles away, that while fishing he had seen a female Jaguar and her cub walking along the river bank close to my home on a number of occasions.
I was delighted and not surprised as during a visit to the waterfall area at the back of the forest I had seen claw marks in the river bank, one of the ways, along with urinating, that Jaguars mark their territory. The Jaguar is most often seen near water and is a good swimmer.
I was then also told a sad tale about a male Jaguar from my forest. The big cat had taken some pigs and a dog from a neighbouring property, so a posse of locals gathered and hunted the cat through my forest. They shot the male Jaguar dead.
I let it be known that I wanted no one on my property with a gun, especially if they were intending to kill local wildlife.
Of course, I understood why the locals had killed the Jaguar….the cat had eaten their families dinner….the pigs having been bought in town, a long way away, and then nurtured into plump maturity….and lost a valued pet. But the Jaguar is a rare and beautiful animal and I wondered why they hadn’t recognised this and instead taken precautions to ensure the safety of their livestock and pets in the evenings when the Jaguar hunts.
When alone in the forest one morning I heard a cough. My hair stood on end. Was it a human or a Jaguar….either a possible danger to a lone woman. I never found out, but spent the day looking over my shoulder and that evening I securely locked and bolted my bedroom door and tried to ignore the padding of feet along the verandah.
Despite the fear I felt honoured to be sharing territory with such a magnificent creature.