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The Pantanal big five

While the african big five is widely recognized, the Pantanal big five deserves equal attention. The Pantanal has a rich diversity of wildlife that has drawn visitors from all over the world. Although it feels unfair to limit the species found in the Pantanal to just five, we have compiled a list of our guests’ favorite animals.

The jaguar

The largest and strongest species of cat in America is
the jaguar. This big cat has the strongest bite of all big cats. They are solitary animals and in the Pantanal, they mainly hunt for capybara and caiman. The jaguar is the number one of the Pantanal big five for most people visiting the Pantanal.

Read more about the jaguar in our detailed  “The jaguar” blog

Jaguar hunting, Jaguars of the Pantanal, jaguar photography tour

The Giant anteater

Giant anteater, The Pantanal big five

The giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) is also referred to as the ant bear. You will find the large mammal in both South and Central America. There are four different species of anteaters. They are classified in the Pilosa order along with sloths. Due to the elongated claws, anteaters are forced to walk on their knuckles. 

Giant anteaters consume mostly termites and ants. They dig them up using their fore claws, while collecting them with a long, sticky tongue. You will find giant anteaters in overlapping home ranges. Other than during mating, the aggression occurring between male encounters and the relationships between the mothers and their young, they are solitary creatures. Until weaned, the offspring are often carried on the backs of their mothers.

Anthills and termite mounds are detected by giant anteaters due to their exceptional sense of smell. Anteaters rip them open using their giant claws. What you most likely call an anteater’s nose is actually a long jaw with a moist, little black nose similar to a dog. The tongue of a giant anteater is two feet in length. When they feed, they produce large amounts of sticky saliva through enormous salivary glands. Giant anteaters usually eat 30,000 ants every day.

The Giant river otter

The giant river otter is more than twice as long as the
North American river otter. The giant river otter belongs to the Pteronura brasiliensis species. They are both strong predators and skilled hunters. This type of otter is family- oriented. They live along the river banks in large groups. Unfortunately, the lives of these incredible animals are being threatened.

The population of the giant river otter is consistently decreasing. The otters grow as long as six feet or 1.8 meters in length. This means they are the longest members of the weasel or Mustelidae family.

The weight of a full-grown male is generally between
57 and 71 pounds or 26 to 32 kg. Giant river otters are intriguing animals with chocolate brown fur. The fur is very dense, with an appearance similar to velvet. The fur stops most water from penetrating the skin. All giant river otters have a unique pattern or patch of white fur on the throat.

The white fur is how one otter identifies another. When otters meet, they usually perform periscoping. This is when they raise their chest and throat above the water so they can recognize one another. Just like every otter, giant
river otters adapt to their environments. They use their long, flexible bodies, webbed feet and powerful tails to propel themselves right through the water. While otters are swimming, they keep water out by closing both their ears and nostrils

A family of Giant River Otters in Pantanal, Pantanal tours

The Jabiru stork

The Jabiru stork, Pantanal

The word jabiru was derived from the Tupi language. The
translation of Yabi’ru is long swollen neck. The Jabiru has
become the symbol of Pantanal because it is the largest
flying bird you will see in the region. You can watch them
throughout the entire year in Pantanal. The length of the
bird is between 49 and 55 inches or 127 to 140 cm. The 18 wingspan is between 90 and 102 inches or 230 to 260 cm.

The weight of a jabiru is about 8 kg, with the length of
the beak at 11 to 13 inches or 30 to 33 cm. Adult jabirus have a feathered, white body with a black neck and a red throat. The beak is completely black with a slight curve. The feathering is the same for females and males, but the male has a longer beak with a greater height. Until fully grown, jabirus are grayish in color.

Jabirus enjoy flooded plains and freshwater swamps. During the Pantanal dry season, you will find them in shallow water with no vegetation. You will find them in floodplains and deeper water during the rainy season. The Jabiru stork mostly consumes aquatic snakes, eel and fish. Sometimes they will eat amphibians, tortoises and young caimans.

They mate for life and build nests together. The male brings the materials which are build by the female. The nest is constructed of a combination of wood and mud. A pregnant female lays approximately three to four eggs after four months. The offspring are fed by both parents until 90 days after birth when they are weaned.

Since it is such an iconic species for the Pantanal we prioritized it above hyacinth macaws and yellow anaconda in our Pantanal big five.

The Tapir

The Brazilian tapir is often called the South American or Lowland tapir. The least threatened and most common species of the tapir is called Tapirus Terrestris. There are four different species of Brazilian tapir. These are the:

– Tapirus terrestris Terrestris 

– Tapirus terrestris Spegazzinii 

– Tapirus terrestris Aenigmaticus 

– Tapirus terrestris Colombianus

A Brazilian tapir has dark brown fur, with a lighter colored face. Their crest is erect, beginning at the crown and finishing at the back of the neck. Some of the tapirs have
a black or darker brown crest. Others have a much lighter colour. The ears are dark and round with very distinct white edges. Tapirs have small, stubby tails, flexible snouts, three hooves on their back feet and four on the front

The body length of a Brazilian tapir is usually between 1.8 and 2.5 meters, with a general weight 225 kg. You will find the Brazilian tapir is widespread across varies regions from Amazon rainforest to wetlands like the Pantanal. 

This Tapir can be seen in multiple South American countries, including; Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Columbia, Paraguay, Argentina and Ecuador. The Brazilian anteater populations are under the threat due to rapid deforestation.

The Tapir, Pantanal

Photographing the Pantanal big five

Are you filled with inspiration to personally witness and photograph the magnificent big five? Look towards the Northern Pantanal in Brazil as your ultimate destination to encounter these extraordinary creatures. Delve into our jaguar photography adventure, where you will also have the chance to come across Capybaras, Giant river otters, and Tapirs.

Jaguar photography tour

Your thoughts?

Which Pantanal animal do you think should be included in the Pantanal big five? Share your thoughts in the comments and we may consider expanding the big five to the Pantanal magnificent 7.

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