Thursday, March 17, 2016

Wildlife of the Peruvian Amazon- Jaguars + Capybaras

Okay, if you meet anyone who's going to one of the rare places left in the world still barely touched by the hand of man, where nature still operates as it has for millennia, we're not only going there for the flora and vistas, we want to catch sight of some of the world's rare animals, and #1 on my list was the elusive and beautiful jaguar. 
I constantly bugged my guide about the possibility. "Where's the jaguar," I would ask, "What do you think the odds are that I'll see the big cat?" ... "when's the last time you saw one?" Apparently only four days earlier a group of Chilean girls were kayaking down the river when a jaguar jumped into the water, swam, caught the world's largest rodent called a capybara, which can grow upwards of 150 pounds (now that's a big rat!) and pulled it back onto land and into the jungle. Wish I was here for that!
capybara on the riverbank
capybara on the riverbank

 We spot the cat's favorite prey on the riverbank. It doesn't seem especially fearful of us, chewing on the blades of grass as I film him from the boat, before he decides to disappear under the cover of water.
spotting a capybara in the morning on the riverbank

One afternoon as I rested for siesta in the hammock, my guide excitedly wakes me from my nap. "A jaguar is nearby," he yells, I'm already grabbing my camera and putting on my boots, sprinting up towards the riverbank. "We could hear him roaring moments ago."
We jump in the boat and head out crossing the river from where the noise emanated. We circle back and forth hoping to catch sight of the large cat, whose nearby presence is verified by the unusual amount of squawking from the birds and forest animals. Unfortunately, the cat doesn't make an appearance outside the trees, and my suggestion of entering the forest is shot down by my guide as incredibly unlikely to have a desired outcome. 
monkey - Tombopato Reserve, Peru
the best photo of a monkey I have from the jungle (center)
As opposed to jungles of say Laos, where most animals have been hunted out of existence, there is a lot of life in the Amazon Rainforest,  but when you're hiking amongst the trees, with camouflage and an incentive not to be seen, animals are quite hard to spot. I saw three groups of monkeys, but the moment they caught wind of our presence they vanished into the forest like ghosts.
toucan- Tombopato Reserve, Peru
if you look closely you'll see a toucan in the upper left part of the tree
wildlife photography ain't easy
parrot - Tombopato Reserve, Peru
Polly the Parrot is easy to make friends with
Of course, the Amazon isn't always the safest place. In addition to poisonous snakes and anacondas which I am happy we didn't encounter, we did run into a few spiders whose bite results in death.
deadly spiders of the Amazon

The river of course has tons of life, from fish, to otters, turtles, and caiman. You just have to keep your eyes open.
releasing the caiman back into the Tombopato River

dead grasshopper- Tombopato Reserve, Peru
a large grasshopper (se morto)
But the highlight of the area is the Macaw Clay-lick, an hour and a half away by boat, where the macaws feed on the nutrients in the clay each morning to detoxify their body. 
You can take a look at the clay lick from afar below and (hopefully) hear the Howler Monkeys sounding off. 

howler monkeys sounding off at the macaw clay lick (turn up your volume)
macaws feeding at clay lick
photo I took with my camera via a telescopic lens
of the macaws feeding

Alas, my time in the jungle ended without spotting the elusive jaguar. The odds of course were against me, but the clay-lick was so awesome, it made up for it. Almost, it almost made up for it.


  1. My uncle in Argentina once captured a capybara (we call them carpinchos in Arg.) and he kept it in his backyard as a domestic animal. They are pretty docile, actually, like dogs & definitely more domestic than cats.

    1. wow, didn't know they could be domesticated. A 150 pound rodent. Bigger than just about any dog too!


Follow us + like us on Facebook as well --