South America’s Pantanal is one of the world’s last natural paradises. Vast wetlands
offer plenty of water, food and shelter to a rich variety of plants and animals, such as
capybaras, macaws, otters, caimans – and the most majestic of all – the jaguar.

It’s the ambitious dream of German filmmaker Christian Baumeister to film the elusive
big cats, but with their huge territories of about 12 square miles they are pretty hard
to find…

The Pantanal is always worth a visit for nature freaks. About the size of France, it is
situated in the border triangle of Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. During the rainy
season almost 80 percent of the land is flooded and turn into a maze of rivers,
ponds, and rivulets. It’s a wonderland for water-loving otters and tapirs and one of the
richest fishing grounds in the world.

During the dry season, it’s a lush savannah and the “masters of the grass,” as the
capybaras are known locally, have the pick of the best grazing grounds. It’s also a
time of plenty for water fowl like the great egret: Fish are much easier to catch in the
shrinking ponds.

No matter if it is wet or dry, South America’s biggest cat is somewhere out there. To
film the elusive hunter, Christian Baumeister travels along the river banks constantly,
always on the lookout for jaguars. Because they love water, they not only come to the
riverbanks to drink, but also to hunt, cool down – and to mate.

But even in the Pantanal, humans have had their impact on the natural world: Today
farmers graze more than four million cattle on jaguar territory, and the cats
sometimes prey on the livestock. Not minding their protected status, the cowboys
don’t hesitate to shoot on sight. It’s a conflict that needs to be solved before it is too
late for the jaguar. Scientist Fernando Azevedo and his team look into the lives and
needs of jaguars and supply possible solutions. Can cat and cattle share the country
peacefully?

Christian, in the meantime, is running out of time. In the wet season, many paths will
be impassable and he still has one big aim: To film a very special kill. As the
strongest of mammals, jaguars pitch their strength against that of caimans. It’s hunter
versus hunter, with millions of years of evolution on the side of the caimans and
physical strength and sneaky tactics on the side of the jaguar. Who will win this battle
of the titans?

Tune in to the The Phantom Cat Sunday at 8P on Nat Geo WILD.

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