“A large and rare feline secretly prowls the Brazilian Pantanal. It emerges slowly, like a ghost, and suddenly stares you directly in the face.” This could very well describe the unhappy ending of an unsuccessful adventure, yet it actually illustrates the beginning of an exciting new era, a milestone in the ancient relationship between man and Jaguar.
“Onçafari Jaguar Project” is an extraordinary project of “habituation” of Jaguars within the Brazilian Pantanal. The habituation process will place man and Jaguar face to face - yet neither will end up injured after the encounter. On the contrary: the “Oncafari Jaguar Project” is a groundbreaking conservation project that aims to establish a new relationship of trust and respect between man and beast
The region of Pantanal is seldom heard of, yet it hosts the largest wetland on the planet. The Brazilian Pantanal compromises vast open spaces and breathtaking vistas, which offers spectacular wildlife viewing comparable to the African savannas. This territory - as large as Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium combined - is home to more than 650 bird species and more than 120 mammal species. In this unique eco-system, nature competes with industries such as cattle ranching and agriculture. In this struggle for co-existence the Jaguar is a frequent casualty. As land used for grazing increases cattle frequently become a Jaguar’s main meal and consequently these vulnerable felines are indiscriminately slaughtered.
The successful implementation of habituation projects in other parts of the world, such as Sabi Sands in South Africa, has firmly illustrated how conservation of wildlife can increase revenue from tourism immensely. The chance to witness the Jaguar in its natural habitat has enormous potential from a marketing perspective and would significantly enhance the Brazilian Pantanal as an eco-tourism destination.
Why the Jaguar?
The Jaguar is the largest cat in the Americas and arouses curiosity all over the world, as it is extremely wary, mysterious and hardly ever sighted. The “habituation” process ensures that the animal remains completely wild, yet comfortable enough to go about its normal daily activities in the presence of a tourist vehicle. This process will most likely bring about the same phenomenon of preservation, commerce and tourism that has been observed elsewhere. Moreover, the Jaguar is at the top of the food chain and by saving this animal and the habitat in which it lives we will be contributing to the preservation of all the fauna in the Pantanal – the Jaguar is a so-called “umbrella species” making its survival critical for the continued existence of the eco-system as a whole.
The idea is to select one or more female Jaguars whose entire territory lies within the confines of the farm participating in the project. This negates the risk of the cat being killed by neighboring ranchers. Once individual cats have been selected, we will start a period of daily observation, gradually getting closer to the animal as its trust is won. After some time, this Jaguar will be somewhat ‘habituated’ to the presence of human beings inside the vehicles. It is the cubs that will be completely ‘habituated’ due to the presence of vehicles from birth. The intention is to get closer to Jaguars than currently believed to be possible.
The Project will take place at ‘Refúgio Ecológico Caiman” (Caiman Ecological Refuge), in the Pantanal – a farm comprising more than 53,000 hectares, a space which is large enough for several Jaguar territories. It is currently estimated that there are approximately 50 Jaguars that inhabit the area.
Caiman Ecological Refuge has forbidden hunting and dogs are not permitted on the property. Furthermore, Caiman already possesses excellent eco-tourism infrastructure including an airstrip, staff accommodation and some of the best lodges in South America. To habituate parts of the Jaguar population would add another chapter of success to this pioneering wildlife property.
Shooting a Documentary
Besides recording this fascinating man/animal relationship, the intent of the documentary is to publicize this embryonic and original idea throughout Brazil, where wilderness areas and the species therein are under daily threat from man’s activities. Different to other ‘businesses’, where secrets are kept under lock and key, it is hoped that this project will inspire other farmers, stakeholders and entrepreneurs to follow suit; a successful case that marries wildlife conservation and economic growth could have significant conservation spin-offs in Brazil and perhaps for the entire continent.
The team that will produce and accomplish this documentary includes qualified professionals in their respective fields, such as Mario Haberfeld (famous international racing car driver turned conservationist), Marcelo Oliveira (investment funds manager and partner-‐director of Wildlife Conservation Productions), Simon Bellingham (Experienced Nature Guide skilled in tracking big cats) and Tulio Schargel (experienced director and producer of nature and wildlife films).
The team, guided by their adventurous spirit and deep respect for nature, will record in detail this innovating and revolutionary project, one of the first of its kind on Brazilian soil. The implementation of the project will be followed step by step: location, observation, cataloging and the ‘habituation’ process of the Jaguars.
The intent is to be able to capture images of wild Jaguars behaving naturally in their habitat – hunting, sleeping, procreating... Furthermore, we will film the first contacts and approaches of guests and tourists towards these animals, starting therefore, the process of adding financial value to the animals residing in the refuge.
The documentary intends to show, not only the Brazilian audience, but also a worldwide audience, that we can get closer than ever imagined to a real and wild Jaguar.
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Web Site – www.wconservation.com
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