The giant anteater and the jaguar are two of the South American jungle’s most fascinating and iconic animals. While these animals typically avoid each other, there are instances where the two animals have come into ᴄᴏɴғʟɪᴄᴛ. A clash between a giant anteater and a jaguar can be a ғɪᴇʀᴄᴇ ʙᴀᴛᴛʟᴇ, with both animals ғɪɢʜᴛɪɴɢ for their ʟɪᴠᴇs.
While giant anteaters and jaguars typically avoid each other, ᴄʟᴀsʜᴇs occur, especially when jaguars are hungry and need to ʜᴜɴᴛ for food. A jaguar will often attempt to take down a giant anteater by ᴀᴛᴛᴀᴄᴋɪɴɢ its ᴠᴜʟɴᴇʀᴀʙʟᴇ underbelly. However, the anteater has a formidable ᴡᴇᴀᴘᴏɴ: its powerful claws. These claws can be up to 4 inches long and ɪɴғʟɪᴄᴛ sᴇᴠᴇʀᴇ ᴅᴀᴍᴀɢᴇ on an ᴀᴛᴛᴀᴄᴋɪɴɢ predator.
Luke Massey, a photographer specializing in the world’s big cats, witnessed the clash between a giant anteater and a large male jaguar at the edge of a lake in the middle of a cattle ranch in the Pantanal, Brazil, in September 2017, according to National Geographic. According to Massey, this is one of the strangest encounters in the natural world he has ever witnessed.
The giant anteater crawled out of the thicket to drink from the lake. Not long after that, the jaguar approached, strode silently toward the anteater, and crouched for momentum. With its muscular neck and claws bigger than a boxing glove, the leopard seemed ready to pounce, but something stopped it.
“When I saw the jaguar sloppily moving behind the completely off-guard and now ᴠᴜʟɴᴇʀᴀʙʟᴇ target, the giant anteater, I thought I was going to witness a ᴍᴜʀᴅᴇʀ or a dramatic ʙᴀᴛᴛʟᴇ. I don’t think jaguars will lie down and watch,” Massey shared.
But Fernando Rodrigo Tortato, a field researcher with the Pantanal project of the big cat conservation organization Panthera, is not surprised. “The giant anteater is sometimes included in the jaguar’s diet, but in the Pantanal, it is not a frequent prey, accounting for less than 5% of the food source,” Tortato said.
Conservationist Charles Munn, chief executive of a wildlife tour company, offers another explanation for the clash. “The only reason jaguars don’t ᴀᴛᴛᴀᴄᴋ giant anteaters is their claws,” Munn said. This oddly shaped mammal possesses a secret ᴡᴇᴀᴘᴏɴ of sharp claws more than 10 cm long, often used to dig up ant nests but can also ɪɴғʟɪᴄᴛ ғᴀᴛᴀʟ wounds on ᴀᴛᴛᴀᴄᴋᴇʀs.
In September 2016, a motion-activated camera in Brazil’s Gurupi biological reserve captured a ꜰɪɢʜᴛ between a jaguar and a giant anteater. The jaguar lunges at potential prey, but the anteater stands upright, spreading its claws wide and swinging at the predator.
“I’m sure the scene is another part of this story. If a jaguar tries to ᴀᴛᴛᴀᴄᴋ a marsupial in the lake, it will use its sharp, powerful claws to defend itself, sᴇʀɪᴏᴜsʟʏ ɪɴᴊᴜʀɪɴɢ the jaguar or ᴄᴀᴜsɪɴɢ ᴅᴀᴍᴀɢᴇ. Even suffered ꜰᴀᴛᴀʟ ɪɴᴊᴜʀɪᴇs,” Munn said.
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