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Brazil's Big Five

Written by
Jennifer Richt & Emily Opie

The phrase 'Big Five' normally applies to rolling African plains.

Any true nature lover's bucket list, though, should include Latin America's largest country - Brazil.

With its wealthy array of ecosystems and exotic species, Brazil's pristine wildlife is incredible.

Maned wolves, anteaters, tapirs, giant otters and jaguars are Brazil's Big Five.

1) Anteater

The anteater, otherwise known as the ‘flag bear’ in Portuguese, is one of Brazil’s rather elusive mammals. Spot them during nocturnal hours by the watering holes of Latin America’s greatest wildlife location: the Pantanal. This unique and enormous wetlands area, one of the largest on Earth, boasts a whopping 400 bird species, eighty mammals and 240 fish species with excellent visibility to look out for the many creatures, including the distinctive anteater.

2) Maned Wolf

Nicknamed ‘a fox on stilts’, the Maned Wolf shares more qualities with a fox than a wolf, due to its independent character and solitary hunting style. With its big ears twitching at the sound of prey, which includes rodents, frogs and insects, this tall and slender animal can be seen hopping around the Brazilian grassland on its exceptionally long legs. Though the night is spent hunting, these reddish and shiny looking creatures while away the day snoozing under thick bush in the savannah of Brazil’s pristine Cerrado.

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3) Tapir

Brazil’s mellow and nocturnal tapir is another of the Big Five to look out for when you’re scouring the Pantanal in the later hours. These agile herbivores with their snorkel-like snout spend their days underwater feeding on water plants, fruits and buds and like the maned wolf are also solitary creatures.

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4) Giant Otter

Despite their reputation as cute and cuddly, the giant otter is regarded as one of Brazil’s top predators. Their thick bodies, strong incisors and powerful tails ensure tough hunting skills for catching their victim catfish, plus they are fairly easy to see, promising entertaining animal viewing.

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5) Jaguar

For some, the elusive jaguar may be the most coveted animal here. The chief of Latin America’s jungle predators and the world’s third biggest cat, the jaguar is truly enchanting. A rich coat and hypnotising spots create a captivating sight which you can glean along exposed, sandy riverbanks. Besides beauty, these felines also possess impressive strength with the strongest bite of any cat, which they use to pierce through shells of reptiles and kill their prey with a direct bite through the skull.

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Brazil’s rise in ecotourism has led to both improved wealth and wisdom for the country, with a conservation plan in development and hopes of a National Center for Research, Management and Conservation of Predators. So your Brazilian Big Five experience not only indicates good news for Brazil, but also for the endangered jaguar and friends.

Jaguar in Brazil's Pantanal
A jaguar hunting in Brazil's wild Pantanal region

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