the most wary, the most secretive, the least conspicuous
May 14, 2018 7:35 PM   Subscribe

Nadia Drake on jaguarness: "In an instant, I registered that, yes, the bathroom trail we had cut through the Peruvian jungle was indeed occupied by a member of the largest cat species in the Americas. She was so close that if she launched herself at one of us, it would be game over in seconds... Powerful predators that kill by puncturing skulls with their tremendous bite, jaguars reign over both ecosystems and mythologies. Everyone hopes to see one of the spotted cats when they visit this part of Peru, and on several earlier occasions, I’d been lucky enough to glimpse the cats along the riverbank. But this was the first time I’d been jaguar’d out of the damn bathroom."
posted by ChuraChura (27 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Not having to be afraid that my brain will be punctured by an apex predator on my way to or during the bathroom is a something that I'm thankful for and I try to remember that only in the last 200ish years, in only some parts of the world, is fear-free pooing actually a thing. It's pretty amazing we ever got up the courage to poop at all, knowing all the crazy vicious animals out there waiting to kill us in our moments of weakness. When you think about it like that, it's really no wonder that our ancestors did everything they could to wipe apex predators out of existence, and even though I support actions like reintroducing wolves, I wonder if there's an element of hubris involved...
posted by youthenrage at 8:01 PM on May 14 [6 favorites]

“He was running, really mad, angry, roaring, showing his teeth, hair bristling—and stopped about 10 or 12 meters from us and then jumped off the road,” he recalls. “We almost shitted our pants.”

I'd probably shit my pants for real, not almost. I have seen a cougar up close in the wild only once, and the speed it moved made it clear that if it had been interested in me as prey, I would have been toast.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:25 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't need the bathroom because I'd poop my pants. But also, cats are the best.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 8:43 PM on May 14 [6 favorites]

I wouldn't need the bathroom because I'd poop my pants. But also, cats are the best.
posted by
fluffy battle kitten at 8:43 PM on May 14 [+] [!]

I don't want to cast aspersions or nothin', but somebody might be in the pocket of big jaguar.
posted by juv3nal at 9:11 PM on May 14 [59 favorites]

I've had probably the dumbest possible version of this experience.

My grandfather made a shitload of money doing . . . something for the government of Bahrain in the 70s and 80s, and came back with his 4th wife, another American he'd met over there, to retire to the coast of Alabama where he, a lifelong Californian, could pretend to be a good ol' boy. He built an enormous, bizarre house to his 4th wife's exacting specifications, the full description of which would take ages. The part that's relevant to this story is the primary guest bathroom. Like all of the rooms in this house, it had an inexplicable theme. The walls were cream, but the floor was a thick, dark carpet, and there were plants scattered around that did sort of give the impression of a jungle. Instead of the floor being a flat rectangle like pretty much every other bathroom that's ever existed, it was arranged into 3 broad steps, each large enough to hold one fixture. At the top was a bathtub, sunken all the way into the step (presumably this is why the steps existed at all). The bottom step had the sink and a particularly large plant to give you an immediate hit of the jungle aesthetic that I have to assume is what they were going for. The middle step had the toilet, and across the room, looking you dead in the eye if you were sitting down and posed as if ready to pounce, was a 4 foot tall wooden statue of a panther.

He's been dead for 15 years, the woman who dreamt this up is estranged from the family, and the whole place was totally destroyed in a flood a few years back, so this really only exists in my memory now, but staring at a life-size panther while you're pooping, even one you know is completely fake, is the sort of experience that sticks with you.
posted by Copronymus at 10:03 PM on May 14 [46 favorites]

What's your scariest animal experience during fieldwork, ChuraChura?
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:12 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]

Are jaguars OP?
posted by Jpfed at 10:13 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]

somebody might be in the pocket of big jaguar.

Better in their pocket than in their jaws.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:25 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]

Are jaguars OP?

You know, one of my party members got turned into a jaguar a few sessions ago and he really was not S class useful. We get an initiative boost though because it turns out that neither goblins nor fishpeople are accustomed to jaguars running about the place and they're a bit taken aback by it.

In fairness, the real S class member of our party is a goat.
posted by maryr at 10:53 PM on May 14 [5 favorites]

In all seriousness, this was a lovely before-bed read, thanks for posting.
posted by maryr at 10:54 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]

Well this was more dramatic than my picnic in Mikumi game park in Tanzania.

We went to the game park with some local friends (I was visiting with some friends for the summer) and we had a picnic in a field in the park off the road.
We were watching some people throwing rocks at something when we were eating and when I was done I decided to go see what it was.
I walked about 150 feet before I noticed about 4-5 lions looking at me laying in the grass looking at me, they were about 70 ft away.
I froze and knew running back would be a bad idea. I slowly backed up and yelled "Simba" back to my friends they all immediately piled int the land rover and drove over to me and I got in. the lions had had enough nonsense and got up and left.
posted by boilermonster at 11:55 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]

You know, one of my party members got turned into a jaguar a few sessions ago and he really was not S class useful.

S-Class? I'll take the E-Type any day.
posted by atoxyl at 12:34 AM on May 15 [5 favorites]

Maybe don't shit where the jaguars live?
posted by Splunge at 12:56 AM on May 15

staring at a life-size panther while you're pooping, even one you know is completely fake, is the sort of experience that sticks with you.
posted by Copronymus

You all get what I'm going for here. Right?
posted by Splunge at 1:03 AM on May 15 [13 favorites]

My cats won’t leave me alone when I’m pooping, either. Is this a fundamental feline trait?
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:12 AM on May 15 [19 favorites]

If I spotted a jaguar while I was on my way to the bathroom I'd puma pants.
posted by gnuhavenpier at 6:49 AM on May 15 [20 favorites]

posted by saladin at 7:02 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]

If I've learned anything from my cats, the jaguar was just angry that the door was closed.

(This was good. I never realized that jaguars were that substantially different than other American big cats, to be honest. I also never realized they were also desert animals - the difference between surviving in the jungle vs. surviving in the desert seems like they'd probably just be found in one, not both)
posted by dinty_moore at 7:06 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]

This was lovely, thanks for posting it.
posted by desuetude at 7:07 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]

Ok, so first of all: Though all the big cats predate humans, lions, tigers, and leopards share millions of years of evolutionary history with hominids, both ancient and modern, as a simple consequence of geographical distribution.

"predate" could really have used a hyphen. Anyway.

A few years ago, a couple friends and I spent some really amazing time at an ecolodge on the Rio Amacayacu. Our guide was from the village 'next door' (a three-hour hike away), but he spoke no English, so we also had an interpreter. The latter was from a near-ish but different portion of the Amazon basin, and had traveled among several different regions. He was also kind of bro-y, would have seamlessly fit in at a frat party in the US, and he liked to try to spook us with jump scares and tall tales.

So one night, the five of us are sitting at dinner, when we hear a bit of commotion from behind the kitchen, where some of the lodge staff had been grilling over an open fire. Come to find out a jaguar had trotted up, taken the meat off the grill, and trotted off again. We didn't get there in time to see it, but the tracks in the mud were obvious enough. Then of course our interpreter friend started telling us all about how if a jaguar decided to eat us, we'd never even feel the bite that killed us, 'cause it would go straight for the base of the skull. I convinced myself this was more of his bluster, though my traveling companions were less sure...then we got back and I did some reading and yeah, as the article says, that really is how they hunt. Though thanks to this article I also now know that they pretty much categorically don't do it to people, so take that scary interpreter bro.
posted by solotoro at 8:02 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]

When I was working in Peru, I developed a mutual crush on another researcher, a really lovely and sweet Peruvian man, and one night we arranged to meet down the trail system from my cabin, across from the fùtbal field (yes, the research station had a football field) to sit and chat got a while. While we were sitting there, we caught a glimpse of eyeshine in one of the goals, and realized we were being observed by an ocelot. It was getting late enough that we watched each other for a while and then the ocelot melted into the dark and we went back to our respective cabins.

A few days later, someone at my sure who was maintaining camera traps called me over to see what she'd found. There was me, walking down the trail away from my cabin, at 8:17 PM. And there, at 8:21 PM, was a beautiful, large, jaguar, walking in front of the exact same camera trap. I never heard a thing, and since you always have the slight sensation that something is watching you while you're in the jungle, nothing seemed particularly out of the ordinary.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:24 AM on May 15 [29 favorites]

This is a lovely article! (Also, sudden crossover of IRL and MeFi streams...)
posted by RedOrGreen at 11:33 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]

Today, most of the cats are killed out of fear or in retaliation for attacks on livestock, but there’s a rising threat in Bolivia, where buying pressure from Chinese medicinal markets is now focused on the spotted cats. Chinese buyers might shell out more than $100 for a single jaguar canine tooth—and given that each cat has four of those teeth, and the laws prohibiting killing are rarely enforced, it’s more than enough economic incentive for poachers.

I don't know what to say about this any more.
posted by seyirci at 12:41 PM on May 15 [4 favorites]

I feel it is incumbent upon me to say, KITTY, WANNA PET THE KITTY! That is all.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 2:15 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]

I saw a jaguar on a dirt road along the Mexico/Guatemala border.

One second there is nothing, next second it is there in the middle of the road, 20 or so meters away. It took a long look at us, and disappeared into the brush in a silent blur.

Jaguars are suprinsigly large, quick, silent, and havr very smelly pee.

And they are very scary when you are just walking along a dirt road looking for mushrooms for spore prints.

That is the same trip whete I ate a great curassow.
posted by Index Librorum Prohibitorum at 3:48 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]

The closest I’ve ever come to a big cat was being warned by a fellow trail-goer of a mountain lion stalking the Glacier Gorge trailhead in RMNP one March, but we never saw it. Their presence, even when you just imagine them nearby, is electrifying. I can’t imagine even brushing up near a jaguar like in the article, but that mix of mortal fear and respect is a rare state for a lot of us, and I imagine that it is deeply humbling.
posted by invitapriore at 7:49 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]

I saw a jaguar on a dirt road along the Mexico/Guatemala border.

His fur was perfect.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:18 PM on May 15 [8 favorites]

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