If you're heading off on a dedicated Jaguar holiday to the wildlife-rich region of the Brazilian Pantanal, doing a little research on this magnificent big cat before embarking on the adventure is one of the most important aspects of your preparation. While a good tour should be led by an experienced naturalist and local guide, a basic understanding of the animal's characteristics and behaviours will make your experience even more memorable and fulfilling.
Even though Panthera onca is the most elusive of the world's big cats, scientists and researchers have built up a fascinating dossier of information about them. Even so, due to the species’ reticence and secrecy we still have much to learn.
Before embarking on a Jaguar holiday, consider delving into any of these recommended reads. All are first-hand accounts and all offer a very different viewpoint.
An Indomitable Beast by Dr Alan Rabinowitz
A book by one of the undisputed global authorities on big cats must, naturally, be first on the list. Dr Alan Rabinowitz is a renowned expert whose scientific career has evolved into a personal passion and a lifelong connection with Panthera onca. His book takes us on a journey of discovery that parallels his own, detailing the animal's conservation, cultural significance and ecology.
This is the perfect, easy to follow reference book to take as extra-curricular reading on a Jaguar holiday.
The Jaguar's Shadow by Richard Mahler
This insightful book is the account of one man's obsession with Panthera onca and his determination to track and encounter it in the wild. When Mahler discovered that a small population of the big cats was living in a remote pocket of New Mexico, he set out on what developed from an adventure into an odyssey. Over several years his quest took him across borders and south to Panama, through jungles, swamps and deserts, experiencing the gamut of human nature – from poachers and ranchers, to conservationists and forgotten Mayan communities – along the way.
This is as much a spiritual as a geographical journey and Mahler's wonderful prose makes this a truly inspirational read.
Eyes of Fire: Encounter With a Borderlands Jaguar by Warner Glenn
In 1996, Warner Glenn experienced a sighting of the big cat in his home state of Arizona. This extremely rare encounter not only became the subject of Glenn's book, it was also the catalyst for efforts to ensure the animal's conservation in the USA. While the author's account is compelling, it's the magnificent photographs that accompany the text that make this such an extraordinary book.
Warner Glenn continues to champion the big cat's conservation and a portion of the proceeds from his book are channelled to a dedicated fund set up by the Malpai Borderlands Group.
Experience Panthera onca in the Wild
Most Jaguar holiday itineraries are centred on the Brazilian Pantanal, which has the highest concentration of the big cat in the world. Awareness of the species’ ‘near threatened' status, through eco-tourism and media exposure (including books like those mentioned above), is continuing to rise. With the implementation of sustainable industry protocols at a governmental level to reduce loss of habitat, along with continued efforts to educate local communities, the latest population figures show signs that the conservation tide may be slowly turning in this magnificent animal's favour.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in Jaguar watching. As a passionate lover of big cats, Marissa chooses the expert-led Jaguar holiday itineraries organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of wildlife in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.