Introducing the Jaguar M.F. Flash: Part 1

Rafael Hoogesteijn, Fernando Tortato, and Allison Devlin of Panthera Brasil

Here at the Fazenda Jofre Velho property of Panthera Brasil in the northern Pantanal, we coexist with a high population of jaguars. In fact, this region has one of the highest jaguar densities in all of Latin America, with around 8 individuals per 100 km2 according to recent studies done by our team. Because of the unusually high density of jaguars in Jofre, the local economy is driven in large part by seasonal ecotourism, something we’ve been studying and developing on our site and in collaboration with local tour operators.

Thanks to tourism and research, we’ve been able to identify and follow some interesting individual jaguars. There is one large male jaguar, who we call M.F. Flash, which frequently prowls around our ranch headquarters. He earned his name the very first time we captured him on camera trap when he sprinted by so quickly that, when we showed the video to one of the cowboys, he exclaimed “Flash!”.  We’ve since seen him on multiple cameras throughout the property.
We consider this co-existence with jaguars a mixed blessing.

On one hand, we hear the haunting bellows of these big cats in the deep silence late at night. We think of how lucky we are that we can experience the primeval call of the jaguar, and how fortunate we are to live in such a vibrant natural environment. We often see jaguar tracks and sometimes even the cats themselves. Each time we encounter a jaguar, we are captivated by their powerful presence and intense gaze.

On the other hand, for all their strength and beauty, the jaguars in this region can present a threat to local ranching livelihoods if we don’t learn to co-exist. The jaguars keep a persistent and intelligent pressure on us humans who invade their Pantanal Royal Realm.  Nearly 80% of the Pantanal is dedicated to large-scale cattle ranches. Many of the year-round residents in the Jofre region, a good amount of whom are cattle ranchers, have expressed anger in response to the cats attempting to get through defenses to eat their domestic animals. For peasant riverine farmers and ranching families, a lost cow can be a lost fortune.

Despite this tension, it’s easy to become enamored with these cats we’ve come to know so well. We’ve seen M.F. Flash multiple times hanging around the paddock just behind the main ranch house, along our grass airstrip, probably lurking with the idea of snatching a newborn calf from its mother. Flash shares this territory with ocelots and pumas, though the smaller cats seem to stay out of Flash’s way. We know this because they’ve also shown up on the same cameras, although at different times.

Another time we spotted Flash in broad daylight near the forest edge by our headquarters. Elementary classes were in session at our resident Jofre Velho School. Maintaining a safe distance and viewing Flash through binoculars, we showed him to the schoolchildren. They watched as he guarded the carcass of a prey animal he had successfully hunted – a very unique and impromptu field trip for the students!

To encounter a jaguar in the wild is an experience unlike any other. Many people travel far and wide just for the chance to revel in its presence. While these sightings of M.F. Flash provide an amazing experience for those of us lucky enough to encounter him, it reminds us of the ever-present risk to livestock from jaguars like Flash. Panthera is continuing efforts to study how communities and cats can co-exist down here in the Pantanal.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog to learn more about M.F. Flash and how the ranch is working to protect livestock while promoting harmony between community and cats.

To learn more about Panthera’s Pantanal Jaguar project, including the CBS 60- minute special, visit our website here.

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