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Mexican Wildcats
Costa Rican Caterpillars

Nick looks ahead high on his mighty steed.
A Day's Work

This morning I woke up at a more comfortable time of 6:30. Breakfast was better than usual, the star-fruit juice was amazing! Each day we have a new fresh fruit juice. I must say, I enjoy all the meals here.

We went with Ellen, who does ongoing research support for many of the projects run out of the fazenda. Today we went to check the jaguar trap and feed the bait — a pig who lives behind the bars of a metal cage, which is placed at the end of the jaguar trap. Once captured a jaguar will be fitted with a radio transmitter to be tracked by Leandro Silveira, one of the researchers who will be working with the rest of our classmates in April. On the ride to the trap our driver drove the four-wheel drive truck through two feet of water. It takes some specialized vehicles — or horses to get through all this mud and water! On the other side we encountered a whole family of capybaras of all sizes — large, medium and really small ones that were real cute. Once we reached the jaguar trap we found the pig in good health and the trap untouched.

We then headed back to the fazenda where we picked up our gear and were driven out to Trail 1 by Rodiriego, the fazenda manager, in a jeep designed for the bumpy, wet terrain. Armed with 18–20 inch machetes, Phil, Ellen, and I set to work clearing away brush, small trees and a plant that looks like aloe. It took hours to clear the entire trail, which included careful navigation around termite and fire-ant mounds and the aloe-like plant with large spikes capable of great injury to anyone who touched them.

After the trail was cleared, we headed back down the path to conduct a fruit census. Trail one runs through a forested area called a cordeheirla. Later on in the week we will enter this data into the computer, which will contribute information that is useful to many of the projects. By knowing what fruit can be found, when and where, the researchers can start to understand the movement of the animals that rely upon specific fruits, and in turn the predators that rely upon the fruit eating prey.

After a terrific lunch of local beef, manioc root flour, rice and beans, potatoes, watercress, beet and carrot salad, and mouth-watering coconut pudding (and a nap), we headed back out into the field on horseback to radio track peccaries in places where jeeps cannot maneuver. Horses are a traditional means of travel in the Pantanal. The depth and location of water varies greatly, and horses enable the Pontenaros, and now researchers, to navigate the terrain in any season. This was the very first time that either Phil or I had ever mounted a horse, and we both had a blast. I think it's safe to say that after three hours of riding I became an equestrian expert. With all the machete handling and horseback riding today my have been the most fun yet — and to top it all off we also saw lots of impressive flora and fauna.

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Photo courtesy of Earthwatch Institute