Cerrado weekend: In search of the maned wolf

August 19, 2014  •  2 Comments

Text by Bethanie Walder

Have we mentioned that our friend, Fernanda, is crazy? Good crazy...

When we were here three years ago, we were out on a hike in the Atlantic rainforest and a snake crossed our path. She couldn’t just look at the snake, she had to catch it and show it to us. A few days ago a beautiful boa constrictor crossed our path while we were exploring on a dirt road. We stopped the car. When Marcel was finally done taking pictures it was Fer’s turn. Check it out:

Fernanda Abra captures a Boa constrictor

Boas weren’t the only thing we saw last weekend. We spent much of our time in and around the Itirapina Ecological Research station (Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina). We encountered several diurnal burrowing owls -- they were nonplussed by Marcel’s camera -- allowing him to get crazy close and never showing any concern:

Burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia), Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, BrazilBurrowing owl (Athene cunicularia), Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, BrazilBurrowing owl (Athene cunicularia), Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, Brazil

Burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia) yawning, Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, BrazilBurrowing owl (Athene cunicularia) yawning, Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, BrazilBurrowing owl (Athene cunicularia) yawning, Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, Brazil

We saw yellow-headed and southern caracaras, buff-bellied puff birds, swallow-tailed hummingbirds, yellow-rumped marsh birds, nighthawks, streamer-tailed tyrants and more. As you can see below, several of these critters were kind enough to pose for Marcel.

 

Streamer-tailed tyrant (Gubernetes yetapa), Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, BrazilStreamer-tailed tyrant (Gubernetes yetapa), Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, BrazilStreamer-tailed tyrant (Gubernetes yetapa), Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, Brazil

Yellow-headed caracara (Milvago chimachima), Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, BrazilYellow-headed caracara (Milvago chimachima), Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, BrazilYellow-headed caracara (Milvago chimachima), Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, Brazil

Itirapina Ecological Station is in a relatively isolated patch of Brazilian “cerrado” or savannah. Much of the cerrado, poor soils aside, has been converted to agriculture. Sugar cane, oranges, coffee, and bananas covered most of the landscape we saw outside the reserve. Thus cerrado dependent species, including plants like the Ipé amarela do cerrado (Yellow Ipé tree of the cerrado), and animals like the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), are becoming more and more rare.

Ipê-amarelo-do-cerrado (Tabebuia ochracea), Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, BrazilIpê-amarelo-do-cerrado (Tabebuia ochracea), Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, BrazilIpê-amarelo-do-cerrado (Tabebuia ochracea), Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, Brazil

Called Lobo-guará in Portuguese, the maned wolf is a stunning animal. Tall, skinny, with surprisingly long legs, big ears, and a beautiful face, it resembles a fox on stilts. But it is neither fox or wolf - it's its own genus. Marcel has been fantasizing about seeing a maned wolf in the wild since our first trip to Brazil in 2011. Marcel’s so bent on seeing, or somehow photographing this animal, that he spent nearly the entire last weekend before we left for Brazil constructing a hard plastic box to keep his camera in so he could, if allowed, set up a motion-triggered system in Itirapina, which is just an hour from our town.

Marcel wasted no time trying to make that happen. We arrived in Brazil on August 6. On August 13th we received permission to stay at the ecological station bunkhouse and to visit the protected area. By about 10:00 pm on August 15 Marcel’s camera was set up. He was unsuccessful that first night, so we moved the camera on the 16th. On the morning of the 17th we went for a walk along the river corridor at dawn. We saw fresh wolf tracks. We smelled wolf. We found recent scat. But we did not see any wolves. We returned to the car and drove on to where the camera was set up. SUCCESS! Marcel's remote camera set up had captured three beautiful shots of a maned wolf.

We also found very fresh scat which, upon investigation, included the remains of an orange (most likely from a nearby orchard); the fruit of the Solanum lycocarpum plant (sometimes called wolf-apple), which is a tomato-like plant that is one of the wolf’s primary food sources; and, quite surprisingly, a claw and shell fragments from a small armadillo (apparently armadillo are not a common food source for maned wolves).

Fernanda Abra investigates maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, Brazil (Near threatened IUCN 2014)Fernanda Abra investigates maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, Brazil (Near threatened IUCN 2014)Fernanda Abra investigates maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) faeces, Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, Brazil (Near threatened IUCN 2014).The maned wolf mainly eats fruit. Here we see wolf apple (Solanum lycocarpum) in green and oranges from an orchard nearby

Maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, Brazil (Near threatened IUCN 2014)Maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, Brazil (Near threatened IUCN 2014)Maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) faeces, Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, Brazil (Near threatened IUCN 2014).The maned wolf mainly eats fruit. Here we see wolf apple (Solanum lycocarpum) in green and oranges from an orchard nearby

Remains of an armadillo in maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) faeces, Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, Brazil (Near threatened IUCN 2014)Remains of an armadillo in maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) faeces, Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, Brazil (Near threatened IUCN 2014)Remains of an armadillo in maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) faeces, Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, Brazil (Near threatened IUCN 2014).

Marcel changed the memory card and reset the camera for one more night. Back at the ecological station he checked the images on his computer, only to find they were slightly out of focus. He was so disappointed that he said he would not share the photos with the reserve manager or post them on his blog. Fortunately, he changed his mind:

Maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, Brazil (Near threatened IUCN 2014)Maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, Brazil (Near threatened IUCN 2014)Maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, Brazil (Near threatened IUCN 2014). I made this picture with a camera trap and remote flashes. Unfortunately the focus ring seemed to have been turned when I put the camera in the protected case, resulting in a bit of unsharpness. I'll try again!

We went back into the reserve so Marcel could try to resolve the focus issue and then we drove off to Fernanda’s hometown, Bauru, to visit with her mom, eat homemade feijoada, and meet with a potential post-doc student for Marcel. And on Monday, after Marcel and Fernanda met with some toll-road biologists, Marcel went and bought a machete to replace the pocket-knife we lost while setting up the camera trap. We stopped back in Itirapina to pick up the camera on the way home. Though there were fresh tracks within a few hundred yards of the camera, they disappeared into the cerrado a bit too soon, and we knew there would be no more photos.

We’ll try again soon. In the meantime, here’s one more photo, of the other-worldly “sempre viva” or “always alive” flower that we saw in the reserve as well. Stay tuned for some additional stories from Marcel about his field trip in Saõ Paulo to a new road construction site – a site which happens to go through several favelas and a lot of intact forest, as well.

Sempre-Viva (Paepalanthus sp.) flower, Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, BrazilSempre-Viva (Paepalanthus sp.) flower, Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, BrazilSempre-Viva (Paepalanthus sp.) flower, Estação Experimental e a Estação Ecológica de Itirapina, São Paulo, Brazil


Comments

Susanne Walder(non-registered)
I am very gladthatMarcel changed his mind and posted the Maned Wolf pictures for all to see.
Fernanda(non-registered)
The pictures are amazing!!!
Was an excellent weekend!
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