Airdate: Jul 10, 2002
Scientist: Leandro Silveira
Pantanal - Listening to Jaguars
In the Pantanal (wetlands) region of Brazil, the top predator could be the next big tourist attraction.
ambience: call of a jaguar
This time of year is the breeding season for jaguars. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. We're in Brazil, south of the Amazon, in a large wetlands region called the Pantanal. Although jaguars are an endangered species, there's still a healthy population of this top predator here. They're rarely seen, but sometimes heard -- during the breeding season.
"You're able to hear them at night, especially when you have females in heat around."
Biologist and Earthwatch scientist Leandro Silveira has been learning the secrets of this elusive animal which has long been an object of awe and fear.
"Jaguars play a very mystic role in Brazilian cultures. Indigenous people - they are very afraid of the jaguars -they are very afraid to be attacked. And what we have learned studying jaguars - - the last thing that animals would do is to attack a human being. All the attacks, it is always related to situations where they were treed or, you know, they were being hunted, and they were shot and wounded and they would come back to the people. Thereâ€™s no record of natural attacks in this regions."
These days, there is still an uneasy relationship between jaguars and human residents of the Pantanal.
"Well, since farmers colonized in the Pantanal for beef cattle production, they have had problems with jaguars eating their cattle. Usually the farmers in retaliation, they shoot the animals. Although killing of jaguars are illegal, in the recent years, farmers have become more conscious about this and not killing every jaguar they see, at least."
Besides being heard, jaguars can sometimes be observed on beaches along river banks. And it's hoped that bringing in tourists to listen to and view these magnificent animals in the wild will encourage farmers to see the jaguar as an ally.
Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation.