Steve Winter and I recently returned from what we both agree was the most incredible place we've ever been. Now me saying that, no big deal, I'm a whipper snapper in the grand scheme of National Geographic. Steve however has been on Nat Geo assignments all over the world for the last 25 years. We had the great honour of documenting the work of Fundación Herencia Ambiental Caribe as they undertook an expedition into Chiribiquete National Park, one of the world's last great unexplored places. We owe huge thanks also to Parks Colombia and the Colombian Ministry of Culture for their support.
This place is so remote and rugged, the only way of getting around is by helicopter. On the last day of the expedition, we were gifted with some beautiful weather. Steve and I jumped at the opportunity. Our awesome pilot David very kindly took the doors of the helicopter- a brilliant idea until we were banked up on our side thousands of feet above the jungle! Alejo (the ropes expert) had tied us both in so we quickly got used to the rather large drop! I didn't think the scenes in Avatar existed- turns out they do.
Prior to the expedition into Chiribiquete, we met Tigger the jaguar (he was named after the tiger Winnie the Pooh). Seven years ago, when Tigger was a tiny cub, his mother was shot after killing a rancher's cow. Tigger was found and taken to a rescue centre, Cabildo Verde Sabana de Torres. Like the ocelot posted previously, Tigger didn't get the vital education from his mother necessary to survive and hunt in the wild. For this reason, he'll never be released into the wild. Whilst this is very sad, there is some positivity to his story.
Jaguars are ghost cats, there are very few places in the wild where you can see them. This makes it very difficult to justify their importance in the ecosystem to the people that live with them and sometimes have their livestock taken. This is where Tigger comes in. Local people are brought to this rescue centre to learn about the role jaguars play in the wild. So Tigger is taking one for the team to help ensure the same thing doesn't happen to other wild jaguars.