Watching Mammals and Reptiles in the Pantanal

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As well as fishing and birdwatching, the observation of land animals (above all mammals and reptiles, but also amphibians, molluscs and insects) is a great spectacle in the Pantanal – a spectacle that takes place every day, guaranteed by the extraordinary richness and variety of the fauna in the pantanal.

Most ranches and agencies offer programmes such as night spotting (using torches whose light reflects off the animals’ eyes) and photographic safaris, but any tour will reveal many surprises for those with attentive eyes and ears – as well as binoculars and a good torch.

Below is a list of some of the many species found throughout the plains.

Most common mammals and reptiles in the Pantanal

    1. Anta, Tapirus terrestris ou Tapir
    2. Ariranha, Pteronura brasiliensis ou Brazilian giant water-otter
    3. Bugio, Alouatta caraya ou Bugio
    4. Capivara, Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris ou Capybara
    5. Cervo-do-Pantanal, Blastocerus dichotomus ou Marsh deer
    6. Cutia, Dasyprocta azarae ou Azara’s agouti
    7. Jacaré, Caiman crocodilus yacare ou Caiman alligator
    8. Macaco-prego, Cebus apella ou Capuchin monkey
    9. Onça-pintada, Panthera onca ou Jaguar
    10. Queixada, Tayassu pecarí ou White-lipped peccary
    11. Sinimbu, Iguana iguana ou Iguana
    12. Sucuri-amarela, Eunectes murinus ou Yellow anaconda
    13. Tamanduá-bandeira, Myrmecophaga tridactyla ou Giant-anteater
    14. Tatu-peba, Euphactus sexcintus ou Armadillo
    15. Veado-campeiro, Ozotoceros bezoarticus ou Pampas deer

1. Tapir

(Tapirus terrestris)

English name: Tapir

Anta, Tapirus terrestris ou Tapir
Anta, Tapirus terrestris or Tapir

Also called tapir, it is the largest Brazilian land mammal: it can reach two metres in length and weigh 200 kilos. Preferably nocturnal, it has a thick, tough hide and a short, mobile trunk.

An excellent swimmer, it lives in forests near rivers. It feeds on fruit, leaves and roots.

2. Ariranha

(Pteronura brasiliensis)

English name: Brazilian giant water-otter

Ariranha, Pteronura brasiliensis ou Brazilian giant water-otter
Ariranha, Pteronura brasiliensis or Brazilian giant water-otter

The clandestine fur trade has led to the Pantanal giant otter being listed as an endangered species.

An aquatic mammal measuring around 1.40 metres and weighing 30 kilos, it has dark skin with a yellowish tinge on the chest and neck, a broad, flat tail and membranes between the toes that help it move around in the water.

It lives in flocks and feeds on birds, eggs, small reptiles and above all fish, which it usually devours on dry land.

3. Bugio

(Alouatta caraya)

Name in English: Howler monkey

Bugio, Alouata caraya ou howler monkey
Bugio, Alouata caraya or howler monkey

A monkey about 1.20 metres long, the howler monkey lives in groups of up to 20 individuals on the highest branches of trees in the forests and cerrado.

They are known for their unmistakable cries – at the beginning and end of the day, when they feel threatened or when they sense changes in the weather. They feed on fruit and leaves.

4. Capivara

(Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris)

English name: Capybara

Capivara, Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris or Capybara
Capivara, Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris or Capybara

The largest of the rodents lives in large groups on the banks of rivers, lakes and marshes; it feeds on aquatic plants, grasses, roots and spikes and is an excellent swimmer.

It measures around one metre and can weigh up to 100 kilos. It has a large head, short hair and paws with interdigital membranes to help it swim.

5. Cervo-do-Pantanal

(Blastocerus dichotomus)

English name: Marsh deer

Cervo-do-Pantanal, Blastocerus dichotomus dichotomus or Marsh deer
Cervo-do-Pantanal, Blastocerus dichotomus dichotomus or Marsh deer

It is the largest deer in South America, standing up to 1.50 metres tall and weighing 150 kilos; its antlers can reach 60 centimetres.

It has a reddish coat with black legs and muzzles. Its legs are adapted for travelling in marshes and “wetlands”, where it moves with great agility. It feeds on herbs, stalks and grasses.

6. Cutia

(Dasyprocta azarae)

Name in English: Azara’s agouti

Cutia, Dasyprocta azarae, Azara's agouti
Cutia, Dasyprocta azarae or Azara’s agouti

A small rodent, the agouti measures around 50 centimetres and lives in wooded areas, in burrows dug into the roots of trees. It is nocturnal and runs at top speed when it feels threatened.

It feeds on vegetables, fruit, roots and seeds, which it eats while sitting on its hind legs.

7. Jacaré

(Caiman crocodilus yacare)

English name: Caiman alligator

Jacaré, Caiman crocodilus yacare, Caiman alligator
Jacaré, Caiman crocodilus yacare or Caiman alligator

The most common species of caiman in the Pantanal has dark spots on its jaw and measures up to 2.50 metres.

It can be seen in large numbers in rivers and bays; it feeds on fish, crustaceans and small mammals.

For years, it was the target of predatory exploitation for its leather and was even included on the list of endangered species. After protection projects and controlled breeding, it is no longer at risk of extinction.

8. Macaco-prego

(Cebus apella)

English name: Capuchin monkey

Macaco-prego, Cebus apella or Capuchin monkey
Macaco-prego, Cebus apella or Capuchin monkey

Small, agile, diurnal and sociable (although unpredictable), the capuchin monkey is about 50 cm tall and weighs around 3 kilos. It lives in groups, high up in the trees, but often comes down to the ground.

It emits characteristic whistles. It feeds on fruit, leaves, seeds, eggs and small animals.

9. Onça-pintada

(Panthera onca)

English name: Jaguar

Onça-pintada, Panthera onca, Jaguar
Onça-pintada, Panthera onca or Jaguar

The jaguar is an aloof animal with nocturnal habits, and is not often spotted. At around 1.80 metres and weighing up to 120 kilos, it is the largest cat in the Americas.

The jaguar is a solitary, nomadic hunter and can attack cattle on farms; slaughtered by farmers, it has been listed as an endangered animal and is now the subject of wildlife protection programmes.

It lives in woods and forests, preferably near rivers – it is an excellent swimmer.

It feeds mainly on caimans, capybaras, deer, monkeys and other mammals.

The black jaguar is a variety of the same species (up close, you can see spots of a darker black colour on its coat).

The puma (Felis concolor), mountain lion in English, has a uniform brown coat and is slightly smaller than the jaguar.

10. Queixada

(Tayassu pecarí)

English name: White-lipped peccary

Queixada, Tayassu pecarí, White-lipped peccary
Queixada, Tayassu pecarí or White-lipped peccary

The Queixada, or white-lipped peccary, is known for its aggressiveness – when irritated, it makes loud sounds and bares its teeth – the large peccary lives in large groups led by an older male. They can measure up to 1.30 metres and weigh 40 kilos.

Its fur is long and dense, and its snout is white. It eats roots, vegetables and small animals.

The Queixada should not be confused with the peccary (Tayassu tajacuy), a smaller species that can be identified by the white collar around its neck.

11. Sinimbu

(Iguana iguana)

English name: Iguana

Sinimbu, Iguana iguana, Iguana
Sinimbu, Iguana iguana or Iguanau

This species of green iguana lives in trees and on land, preferably near water; it is a skilful swimmer. One of the largest lizards in the Americas, it can reach up to 1.70 metres. It eats insects, vegetables and larvae.

12. Sucuri-amarela

(Eunectes notaeus)

English name: Yellow anaconda

Sucuri-amarela, Eunectes notaeus, Yellow anaconda
Sucuri-amarela, Eunectes notaeus or Yellow anaconda

The yellow anaconda is the largest snake in the Pantanal and can reach 5 metres in length. It moves slowly on land, but is fast in the water, inhabiting the banks of rivers and lagoons.

It is not poisonous: it wraps itself around its prey and kills it by suffocation, after which it can spend weeks digesting it.

According to legend, the yellow anaconda can kill calves or people; in reality, it eats small animals such as rodents, lizards, birds and fish.

13. Tamanduá-bandeira

(Myrmecophaga tridactyla)

English name: Giant-anteater

Anteater, Myrmecophaga tridactyla, Giant-anteater
Tamanduá-bandeira, Myrmecophaga tridactyla or Giant-anteater

The giant anteater is a typical animal of the cerrado region and open grasslands. It can reach 2 metres and weigh 30 kilos.

It has long fur, especially on its tail, and strong, long nails on its front paws, which allow it to open termite mounds and nests of small insects, which stick to its sticky tongue.

Another species found in the Pantanal is the lesser anteater (Tamanduá tetradactyla). The lesser anteater measures 1.40 metres, has a prehensile tail and lives in trees.

14. Tatu-peba

(Euphactus sexcintus)

English name: Armadillo

Tatu-peba, Euphactus sexcintus, Armadillo
Tatu-peba, Euphactus sexcintus or Armadillo

Also known as the hairy armadillo, it has a very hard carapace with hair, long, strong nails with which it digs into the ground and a long tail.

It has diurnal habits and feeds on roots, tubers and carrion.

There are also other armadillo species in the Pantanal: the very rare giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus) – the largest in the world at around 85 centimetres – and the small, agile nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novem cinctus).

15. Veado-campeiro

(Ozotoceros bezoarticus)

English name: Pampas deer

Veado-campeiro, Ozotoceros bezoarticus, Pampas deer
Veado-campeiro, Ozotoceros bezoarticus or Pampas deer

The pampas deer lives in the savannah and open fields. Its coat is reddish on the back and white on the underside of the neck and belly. It is a good swimmer. Males have short antlers, no longer than 30 centimetres.

Its diet includes herbs, leaves and aquatic plants.

Another species found in the Pantanal plains is the red brocket deer (Mazama americana), which measures around 70 centimetres and weighs 20 kilos; it lives in closed forests and aquatic regions.

Both species are at risk of extinction.

See the following publications on the Pantanal of Mato Grosso:

  1. Watching Mammals and Reptiles in the Pantanal
  2. Fishing in the Pantanal – Best places, baits, methods and seasons
  3. Most common fish species in the Pantanal
  4. Bird watching in the Pantanal of Mato Grosso
  5. Most common bird species in the Pantanal of Mato Grosso
  6. Flora of the Pantanal of Mato Grosso
  7. Fauna of the Pantanal of Mato Grosso
  8. Mato Grosso Pantanal – Geography, Climate, Soil and Rivers
  9. History of the Mato Grosso Pantanal – Discovery and Economic Development
  10. Southern Pantanal Region
  11. North Pantanal Region
  12. Why go to the Pantanal in Mato Grosso?

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