Conservation cowboys

Saving the jaguars of Brazil

Has isolation got you thinking about a career change? There’s perhaps no bigger reinvention than that of Mario Haberfeld. The racing driver turned conservation cowboy exchanged supercars for safari vehicles in order to save South America’s jaguars.

In the Pantanal of Brazil there has been an age old rivalry between ranchers and jaguars. Ranchers raise cattle in jaguar habitat and then occasionally those jaguars will take down a cow for an easy meal. Retaliation ensues where the angry rancher hunts down the culprit with a shotgun so that he won’t lose any more income. But what if the rancher could earn more money by living with jaguars than without them? This is what Mario aimed to find out.

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Mario spent many years as child going on safari in Africa but, being Brazilian, he was amazed that nobody was promoting safaris in his native land. The issue is, jaguars are notoriously elusive animals, seeing one as a tourist is extremely rare. Seeking out help from experts in South Africa, Mario set out to habituate jaguars to safari vehicles. He also found a rancher who was interested in alternative sources of income. This was the birth of Oncafari - an organisation that conserves jaguars through ecotourism and science.

Naturalist and filmmaker, Catherine Capon, visited Mario’s project in Brazil to see exactly how he turned wildlife/human conflict into a sustainable, profitable business and where he’ll be setting up next.

A huge thanks to the Nature Trust of the Americas for making this film possible.

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