The big five of the Pantanal

The Big Five term was used by African big-game hunters and later adopted by the local tourist industry. Recently it has been adapted to the Pantanal in Brazil. Here's our Big Five collection.

All pictures were taken during regular tourist outings and show from top left, clockwise:
  1. A South American tapir (Tapirus terrestris, anta) and a flock of whistling ducks.
  2. A yellow anaconda (Eunectes notaeus, sucuri) killing a blue-and-yellow macaw.
  3. A giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis, ariranha) eating fish.
  4. A giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla, tamanduá-bandeira) with a baby on it's back.
  5. A jaguar (Panthera onca, onça-pintada) stalking capybaras.


The lesser anteater (Tamandua tetradactyla, tamanduá-mirim) is not easy to find because it has rather arboreal and nocturnal habits, although we see them also at day and on the ground. They feed primarily on arboreal termite nests and defend themselves with their very strong and big fore claws.
In this picture you see a mother with a baby on her back.


Fazenda Barranco Alto has very large protected areas and a highly varied habitat composition, from dense forests to wide open grasslands. This is one of the reasons why giant anteaters (Myrmecophaga tridactyla, tamanduá-bandeira) are common around here. Nevertheless, they might be hiding from our sightings in the vegetation during the days of the southern summer.
Recent population counts by Moecklinghoff have estimated the population on Fazenda Barranco Alto being bigger than 60 animals.
On this picture you see a beautiful female with her young on the back that she will carry for 6 months.


These days we had an unexpected surprise. Suddenly, a Boa constrictor (Boa constrictor amarali, jibóia) fell off a tree just next to one of us. The snake was holding on a Chaco Chachalaca (Ortalis canicollisAracuã), which it had killed by constriction up in the tree. The bird was already 20 cm down the snake's throat.
The same way we heard the blunt noise of the snake hitting the ground, a fox also did and came to inspect and challenged the snake. At this point snakes are completely vulnerable because they've got their mouth full! Seeing no alternative, the snake had to regurgitate the bird and then hiss to the fox ...

The forked tongue is used to smell.

Just regurgitated the bird.

Salinas and green

After many month of drought the rains are finally back to the Pantanal, the trees are fully covered in dark green leaves and the grass grows in lush colors ...
In this aerial photo you see 4 brackish water lakes, so-called salinas. They are a unique feature of this region of the Pantanal and contribute to the incredible bio-diversity of Fazenda Barranco Alto. Here we find extensive and representative patches of pristine gallery forest, savannas, grasslands, thick forests, a river, salinas, fresh-water lakes, marshes and reeds.

This leaves the Rio Negro Pantanal unrivaled among all other Pantanal sub-regions. This is one of the few regions in the Pantanal where you can see all of the mammals that occur in these wetlands. Following theses two links find our mammal list and bird list.

Pampas deer

The Pampas deer (Ozotoceros bezoarticus, veado-campeiro) is our easiest to see deer, because they inhabit the open grasslands. Although gray brocket deers are in greater numbers, they inhabit the bushes where they're harder to spot.
Now is the time when we see most of the young ones. The fawns loose their white spots two months after birth.

Pampas deer with fawn.
Father of the fawn.

Toucans in their nests agree

After you´ve read the last post about Haley´s adventures in the Pantanal you might wonder how a toco toucan looks in reality... well, it´s even more colorful than any comic can be !

In this photo the toucan is not predating on another bird´s nest, but guarding its own nest. 

In the 1940´s an advertisement from irish Guiness beer ran with the following jingle: "Toucans in their nests agree/Guinness is good for you/Try some today and see/What one or toucan do." See a more recent Guiness toucan TV ad here: http://youtu.be/QXzIMP_wxQ0?hd=1

To the friends of the Pantanal Lodge - Fazenda Barranco Alto

Dear Friends,

Another year is over and looking back to our encounters with nature and men we can think of many great experiences, some big, some small. In March, a rather different type of bird - „
earthrounders“ Angela and Flemming Pedersen – visited Barranco Alto coming all the way from Switzerland in a Mooney airplane, called Honeymooney. On their last day a very curious anaconda decided to have a better look at the airplane’s engine...

Anaconda on mooney, Angela Flemming, 3/06

It was a very good year for viewing our smaller cats such as pumas, ocelots, margays and jaguarundis. Jaguars did not want to give us the pleasure of being seen very often, but there were daily signs of them being around us. At one point a big male decided to wake us all up with his strong roar, walking only a few meters past us as we were sleeping at the cottage by the river.
A young puma by Morton Nagel, 5/06Jaguar male tracks by Lucas Leuzinger, 12/06

Adult puma male by Felix Richter, 10/06With canoe descents taking place twice a week, we have finally figured out the distribution of giant otters on our 18 km strip of river. Our five-member „rancho“ family had 2 babies in April, forcing them to enlarge their territory. After 2 weeks of stressful fights, “curses”, running back and forth just in front of the lodge, the “discreet“ couple who had lived here for a few years had to give away some 2 km of river downstream. Month after month we were able to observe the babies coming out of their nest, growing bigger, learning to fish becoming more independent. As we were watching them, they also became used to our presence. We gave each animal a name: “Logradouro”, “Gordo” (the fattest and biggest giant otter male we have ever seen, with a very nice character), “Pinta”, etc. Giant otters are very social and do everything in family. Watching them over long periods tends to make us humanise them, giving each animal its character. Hopefully we shall have many more chances to follow up on this family’s life story.

Giant otters with young by L. Leuzinger, 9/06Our friendly hyacinth macaw couple, which lives on the big Tarumã tree by the river, has not given up the idea of having a chick. Over the last 3 years the couple had endured the most dramatic and tragic situations, such as toucan attacks (toucans are their worst nest predators), wind and storms, which killed either their eggs or newly born chicks. This year they mated for many months without any sign of egg laying. Then, at some point in August/September, they disappeared into their hole in the tree and were barely ever seen. They lost a lot of weight and were quite stressed even with the presence of known people like us. Finally, just recently they have managed to have this year’s baby chick which is now flying over our heads !!!

Hyacinth macaw couple by L. Leuzinger, 8/06Hyacinth macaws mating by L. Leuzinger, 9/06Hyacinth macaw chick by Lucas Leuzinger, 11/06Last, but not least, we made a big step forward from the farming and conservation point of view: we have bought 1500 hectares of “Pantanal de Aquidauana”. Fazenda Barranco Alto (until now only right side of the Negro river, “Pantanal da Nhecolândia”) has widdened its wings over the other side of the river, which has always been a big dream of the Schweizer-Leuzinger family.
Some of our guests were present and enthusiastically supported us during the dramatic moments of negotiation and final sale. After that, the MacMillans were the first ones to explore and even sleep over one rainy night at the new area, naming one of the lakes the “Don Gregorio lake”.
Walking, riding and canoeing through a completely different type of vegetation – Lucas has already found 2 palm tree species that do not exist on the right side of the river – shall offer our newcomers, but also our “second and third” time visitors, some adventurous hours exploring this new land.

Satellite image, Landsat 7, 2003We thank you all for the many good hours that we were able to spend with you. In 2007 we hope to realize new dreams which are born through the interesting conversations, suggestions and good ideas of our guests.

View from the airplane by L. Leuzinger 11/06

We wish you a Happy New Year!

Marina, Lucas, Leticia and Ana Emília Leuzinger