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Chase of natural predators has been recorded since the time of New World colonization. Documents dating back to 1535 account for 6,000 (six thousand) “Leopard” pelts, found in a French vessel taken by Portuguese subjects. The skins were probably of the Panthera Onca species.

Native communities also hunted large predators as a ritualistic coming of age. Among Tupi natives, a young male was only considered a man after making a prisoner from enemy tribes or when he killed a jaguar.

Other animals of the Brazilian fauna were also found in the French vessel, like parakeets. The impressive number of skins and of dead birds is clear evidence to the fact that European people were already fascinated by it and that there was an already thriving trade. A trade that started the marked decline of our original feline population.


From primitive weapons, like the Indian ”Tacape”, to present day firearms, hunters all over the territory have been developing hunting methods and techniques.

TACAPE – Widely spread among native Brazilian Indians, it is a wooden club also known as burduna, used to hit the animal in the head, breaking its skull.

ZAGAIA – A sort of iron spear, the zagaia was often used by jaguar hunters, known as “onceiros”. They stalked the jaguar and then waited for it to jump on them. With the zagaia, the hunter pierced the animal on the chest and held it until the cat stopped struggling.

TRAPS – More commonly used to catch small cats, traps are the most widespread method for hunting animals that have become used to preying domestic fowl. It consists basically of a two-compartment box. One compartment is for the cat, the other for the bait, usually hens. When the cat approaches to capture the bait, it is forced to enter the first compartment, stepping on a platform that closes the door to the box. The cat is trapped inside, and the hunter can easily kill it.

POISONING – Knowing that jaguars are in the habit of returning to a prey they have killed, people use highly lethal poisons to “control” predators in their properties. These poisons are easily procured in agricultural products stores, and even though they are meant for crops, its use against predators is widely spread. This way, “hunters” cannot be easily traced by controlling authorities.

STILL-HUNTING – Carrying a firearm, the hunter waits in ambush, usually from up a tree, for the jaguar to find the prey left lying on the ground – which can be some small animal like a hog, a dog or a kid goat. Or else, the hunter will find a carcass of a killed prey. As jaguars are known to return to their prey, the hunter just sits and waits.

CALLING – In fact this is another method of waiting. It consists of waiting in hiding and blowing a bamboo instrument, the sound of which resembles the male cry. The caller hopes a male will hear it and come to drive the rival out of his range.

DRIVING OR BEATING – With the help of dogs, after many hours or even days of pursuit, the jaguar tries to go up a tree to escape its pursuers, but becomes an easy prey to the sight of their firearms.


Native people in Brazil hunted big cats for cultural or religious reasons. Rites of passage to adulthood required that young men went out to kill a jaguar, or a puma. When white men arrived to the newly found lands, hunting was spurred by pelt trade, which has been extremely active until recent years. The most attractive skins were – for obvious reasons – the patterned ones, with spots or rosettes, like those of jaguars (Panthera onca), ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), margay (Leopardus wiedii) and oncilla or tiger cat (Leopardus tigrinus).

Sport hunting was also very popular in the countryside, attracting people from distant countries, who came looking for a game hunting trophy. And the most coveted game was the largest predator in the Americas.

In our days, the fact that domestic animals and fowls are an easy prey for predators has become the main excuse for hunting. Deforestation and forest burning are other very serious threats to the future of our wild cats populations.

Though prohibited by law, hunting of small or big cats continues unabated in the countryside, and the remaining population vies for space with cattle, goats and horses. On the other hand, many of the jaguar’s usual preys are also the preferred target for hunters, therefore reducing their density. Thus the vicious circle is formed. Predators look for alternatives, and these are found in animals raised by men, who will kill predators to save their livestock – killing many cats before the true predator is caught.

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Uncaring about tomorrow

Wild life is disappearing in many of the areas intended for biodiversity conservation, due to the hunting pressure of the more traditional communities (indian, native and fishermen communities) throughout Brazil.

Animal trafficking
Does the pelt trade continue?
The shortsighted extractive agricultural practices cause thousands of animal deaths and irreparable damages to nature.
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