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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Brazil's Pantanal & Cerrado trip: An Overview

Our family adventure for 2013 was a two-week tour in Brazil's wildlife-rich state of Mato Grosso. We booked our tour through Pantanal Ecoexplorer, owned by Carlos Grandez. In short, we had an amazing time. Although we did not see a jaguar (a main goal of ours), the things we did see more than made up for it. Wild animals don't adhere to our schedules and our failure to see a jaguar was not for lack of trying. We had fantastic guides and boatman. The lodges were great with plenty of excellent food. Each day's itinerary was well conceived. During the two weeks we drove, hiked, rode horses, took spotlight safaris, boated, snorkeled and boated some more -- all in the pursuit of wildlife. I am very pleased with our species lists.
MAMMALS (in order of appearance):
Capybara in the Pantanal

South American Coati*
White-lipped Peccary*
Crab-eating Raccoon*
Collared Peccary
Brown Brocket Deer*
Brazilian Rabbit*
Crab-eating Fox*
Red Brocket Deer*
Azara's Agouti
Bulldog Bat sp.
Black Howler Monkey*
Black-tailed Marmoset*
Brown Capuchin*
Giant Otter
Greater Sac-winged Bat*
Neotropical Otter*
Yellow Armadillo*
* indicates a new species for me
Danika also saw a small mouse-sized rodent on one of our spotlight trips.

Hoped for, but missed mammals include giant anteater, tapir and the aforementioned jaguar. We found jaguar tracks almost every day in the Pantanal.
Young coati crossing the road

Brown Capuchin digging insects out of a tree limb

I think my mammal highlight was the ocelot (the giant otters were a close second, but I will do a
Our safari vehicle
separate otter post) as it was an unusual sighting and a new species for all of us. Our guide "spotted" (hee hee) the ocelot on one of our night drives. It was a fairly short look as the cat quickly moved out of view. We had brought our own headlamps to supplement the spotlight and it was Danika that relocated the ocelot about 60 meters down the road. She glanced to her left and screamed "OH MY GOSH! ITS RIGHT HERE!". And she was correct. The ocelot was literally five meters from the truck. We stopped and and the cat just kept getting closer. I managed a few nice images:
Ocelot in the Pantanal of Brazil

Brazilian ocelot
Birds: I tallied 125 species. The sheer numbers of birds we saw was hard to describe. I have prepared a blog entry with many more photos and stories here.

Amazon Kingfisher, Brazilian Pantanal
Burrowing Owl standing guard
Black-collared Hawk
Reptiles and Amphibians: From the caiman to the tiny geckos that patrolled our rooms at night, we saw a nice variety of herps -- One snake (identified for us as a false water cobra); Numerous varieties of tree frogs; Lizards, including iguanas and a teghu; and a turtle species in the river. It should be clear by now that I am not as knowledgeable in this taxa as I am with the birds and mammals. But that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy all the herp-watching. The caiman were particularly hard to ignore...
Caiman vocalizing
Teghu lizard
Lizard in the Pantanal
Paraguay River
Iguana roused from his basking by a bird
Help me identify this snake please!
Large tree frog in our bathroom

Fish: Let me first say that we were served remarkable fish dishes every day at every lodge. We ate more kinds of fish prepared in more ways than I knew were possible. One lodge started dinner each night with a piranha soup/stew. We also ate dourado, pacu. pintado and a few others I cannot remember. While we were on the Paraguay River, fish were always breaking the surface and we passed many anglers, most of which were on guided trips of their own. But our fish adventures left the dinner table when we snorkeled at two fresh water springs. This gave us a chance to try out the new GoPro camera I received for Father's Day.
Swimming with the fishes

Over the next several weeks I hope to write more entries about our Pantanal adventure. But I had four camera traps out while we were away and Monday I leave for Massachusetts to take some data on black bear sign with my students.  And then.... well, you can see there is never a shortage of things to write about and not even time to do it all!


  1. Well....without looking anything up in a book (since they are all at the office right now....)

    The lizard (the one that isn't a Tegu) appears to be an Ameiva of some sort. The turtle is a Podocnemis sp. (not sure which one, though), the frog is a Cuban Treefrog (I think), but the snake has me stumped. It's definitely not a Fer De Lance or Bushmaster....but I'm not an expert on South American herps.

    I'll see if I can find someone who can recognize it.....

  2. I agree with Trailblazer that the non-tegu lizard is an Amevia. I think the snake may a meber of Liophis, but I think it has to be in Colubridae. Its not one of the boids and I don't recognize it as one of the elapids or vipers. Great puzzle.

  3. David Steen at "Living With Wildlife" (look for his blog on my blog roll" is a herper extraordinaire!


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