Thursday, September 10, 2015

Armadillos and Anteaters

Greetings All,
I wondered "How do you top seeing 7 Jaguars and Giant Otters in the Pantanal?"  Although these animals are the Pantanal's most charismatic inhabitants, there are plenty more intriguing creatures to search out.  We returned to Porto Jofre where we were greeted by three beautiful Hyacinth Macaws. The Pantanal is the last stronghold for these endangered parrots whose numbers have been decimated by habitat loss and the pet trade.

Hyacinth Macaws
We drove back up the Transpantaneira Highway passing by a Yellow-tailed Cribo that was sunning itself on the road.  This nonvenomous snake is the longest member of its genus and can grow up to 10 feet in length.

Yellow-tailed Cribo
Our next stop was Araras Eco Lodge, one of the first cattle ranches in the area to be converted to an Eco Lodge.  Here conservation is the focus and the proprietors, Andre Von Thuronyi and his wife Aquilla, run several projects to help the beleaguered Hyacinth Macaws and protect 6,670 acres of wildlife habitat.  We spent a few days searching the trails and smaller rivers for more obscure wildlife.  During our first walk we encountered a pair of Whistling Herons fishing in a weed-choked pond.

Whistling Heron

We arrived at a working farm where many colorful parrots were squawking in the trees.  This part of the property is used to raise cattle, horses and sheep and to also rehabilitate parrots rescued from the pet trade in order to return them to the wild.

Blue-fronted Parrot
At night we went out in search of nocturnal animals.  Our drives invariably turned up Crab-eating Foxes and Crab-eating Raccoons.  As its name implies these raccoons eat crabs and other crustaceans but its diet also includes amphibians, turtle eggs and fruit.

Crab-eating Raccoon
The next day we went canoeing on the Rio Claro.  Tucked in among the vegetation was a secretive Agami Heron considered to be one of the most beautiful herons in the world.  We silently glided alongside it to admire its stunning plumage and impressive bill.

Agami Heron
Emanating from the forest were high-pitched calls.  "A bird?', I asked Tadeu.  "No, a tiny monkey called a Black-tailed Marmoset", he replied.  I desperately wanted to see these primates but they remained hidden in the dense vegetation. We returned to the canoe dock where a buffet lunch complete with a barbecue had been set up for us.  As we were eating, two inquisitive Black-tailed Marmosets came down to check out our picnic spot.  We got wonderful close-up views of these seriously cute monkeys after all!

Black-tailed Marmosets

That evening we walked along a boardwalk to a tower to watch the sun set.  Along the way, a troop of Black-striped Capuchin Monkeys frolicked in the trees over our heads.  One cheeky individual looked at us in utter disdain.  "Who were these terrestrial-bound creatures invading his domain?" I could imagine him thinking.

Black-striped Capuchin

A little further along the boardwalk, an Azara's Agouti scurried along on the forest floor.  Finally we were able to get a look at this shy animal that typically fled and hid at our approach.

Azara's Agouti

We climbed to the top of the tower for a bird's-eye-view over the Pantanal.  At this time of year the wetlands are drying out and the birds, fish and caiman are restricted to shrinking pools of water.

View from the Monkey Tower

On one of our early morning drives we came across a Six-banded or Yellow Armadillo searching for grubs in the dry grass.  This prehistoric-looking animal is covered with a leathery armor shell to protect it from predators.  Armadillos have poor eyesight and we were able to approach closely.  This fellow had to stand on his hind legs in order to get a whiff of us.  Once he caught our scent he scurried off into the bushes.

Yellow Armadillo
On our last afternoon we took a drive along the Transpantaneira Highway in search of more wildlife. A female Capybara was attempting to cross the road with her 4 pups.  They scampered back into the swamp as we approached.

Capybara Family
In the late afternoon a large flock of Great Egrets, Jabiru Stork, Rosette Spoonbills and Wood Storks had gathered for their last meal of the day.

Pantanal Flock
On our final morning walk we encountered another odd creature with very poor eyesight, the Southern Tamandua or Lesser Anteater.  He was searching the savannah for a meal of ants and termites.  He stopped his foraging and stood on his hind legs to better hear or smell us.  He didn't seem overly concerned about our intrusion and ambled off to continue his foraging.

Southern Tamandua
After an amazing week of wildlife viewing, it was time to leave the Pantanal.  A big thanks to our very knowable and fun guide, Tadeu, for sharing his backyard with us.  What a privilege to visit one of the "Wildlife Wonders of the World", Brazil's Pantanal Wetlands!
We hope all is well back home,
Peggy and Marc

No comments: