The Onafari project is a non-profit conservation initiative in the Brazilian Pantanal. Their aim is to conserve South America's top apex predator, the Jaguar, through sustainable eco-tourism.
Jaguars are shy creatures and for their conservation to be a success they must lose some of their fear of humans. Oncafari uses methods first pioneered with leopards in South Africa, making for a world first in the habituation of Jaguars.
It is worth making an important distinction. Habituating an animal is very different from domesticating it. When a Jaguar is habituated it stops perceiving vehicles as a threat and acts normally in our presence. It still remains a completely wild animal.
Project Oncafari's attempts to re-wild two orphaned jaguar cubs was the subject of a BBC Two Documentary, Jaguars: Brazil's Super Cats.
Project Oncafari has been a roaring success, in 2016 95% of visitors saw a jaguar between July and October. In 2017 that figure was nearly 100%! Jaguar are wild animals so it can not be guaranteed that guests will see one during their stay, but the odds are certainly highest at Caiman.
Guests at Refugio Ecologico Caiman, the home of project Onafari, are able to go out on excursions with the team of scientists. Caiman runs two experiences for their guests with Project Oncafari.
You will spend a full day and evening with the Jaguar Habituation Team at Oncafari. In the morning you will go out with the scientists as they go about their daily activities.
The Team spends a great deal of time searching for the animals. They have a number of clues and tools at their disposal to point them in the right direction.
Jaguars are nocturnal predators, becoming most active once the sun sets. You will go with the Oncafari team as they check their camera traps to see if a passing Jaguar activated one during the night, they will look for fresh tracks on the ground; try to locate kills that Jaguars might have made during the previous night, check data from satellites that follow our collared Jaguars and even search them via a receiver that can capture VHF signals emitted by their collars.
You may also get the chance to try tracking on foot with the expertly trained trackers, you will have the chance to see firsthand the pictures taken by the camera traps and experience the advanced technology that is available to the team.
When a sign of the animal is found the team will attempt to find the Jaguar so that they can continue to habituate it. The team are often able to find the approximate location of the Jaguars during the day, thereby increasing the chances of seeing them at night.
You will set out just after sunset or after your evening meal in order to see the Jaguars. You will also be given a full presentation on the Oncafari Project’s work and objectives at our base station.
The activities included in the full experience are very similar to the “Full day & Evening Experience” but they are booked on a 3-day basis. The advantage of this package is that it will dramatically increase your opportunities of seeing a Jaguar. You will become a part of the team and get deeply involved in their activities. If you would like, you and your group can be woken up at night in the event that a Jaguar is found by the team.
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