According to a special report published by Reuters earlier this month, Brazilian jaguars, imperiled by hunters, ranchers and destruction of their habitat have learned to survive at least one menace—flooding in the Amazon. They take to the trees!
Although they can be six feet long and 200 pounds, the largest South American cats nimbly navigate treetops where they stay from April to July when the rainforest floor is under meters deep water.
“It shows that even as a large animal, the jaguar can withstand the flooding—feeding, breeding and raising its young in the treetops for three to four months,” says Emiliano Ramalho, the lead researcher for Project Laureatê, which is administered by the Instituto Mamirauá.
“This had never been documented before we began researching the jaguars here.”
The Lauaretê Project monitors jaguars in Mamirauá, studies their relationship with local residents and undertakes conservation for the species, which lives deep in the rainforest.
Documenting jaguar behavior during the rainy season is rare, with their long-term stays in the treetops first recorded by the researchers in 2013 after nine years of monitoring in the region.
But from 2016 to 2018 in several visits to the Mamirauá Sustainable Development Reserve, 373 miles west of Amazonas state capital Manaus, photographed jaguars perched high on branches.
Called “painted jaguars” in Brazil because of their intricately spotted fur, jaguars are difficult to see in the dense jungle canopy.
Researchers discovered their behavior after nearly a decade of studying them from floating bases, braving the same conditions that put flood waters at the doorsteps of more than 10,000 people living in the Mamirauá reserve.
Ramalho says that understanding this behavior is further evidence supporting the need to preserve the Amazon floodplain.