Lonely landscapes and a scarce population give way to a rich fauna that’s best watched from the back of a horse or the saddle of your mountain bike. Here are Casanare’s Big Five – the most iconic, typical or fascinating animals in Casanare, Colombia.
1. The Jaguar
Clearly number one is the graceful jaguar. He is the king of the Casanare fauna. From the Andean foothills to the Amazonas he roams the vast Llanos in search of capybaras and other prey.
Number 2 is the jaguar's prey: Casanare’s most iconic animal, the capybara, locally known as ‘chigüiro’. It’s the largest rodent in the world and roams the savannas in groups of eight to forty. It loves water, wet savannas, flooded prairies and is an excellent swimmer. It’s most common enemy is not the jaguar but humans, some of whom hunt them for their meat, and the great summer droughts.
There is a reason why capybaras live in big groups and reproduce so eagerly. They have many enemies. Next to the jaguar (and humans) another enemy is the Green Anaconda or Common Anaconda that can be found from Los Llanos to the Amazonas. With up to 6 meters in length and up to 70 kilos in weight, the anaconda is the world’s heaviest and one of the longest snakes. It’s an excellent swimmer and can be found in swamped marsh and near lagoons. Anacondas, also called Water Boas, constrict their prey and reportedly but rarely also swallow deer, young cattle, tapirs and caimans.
The Giant Anteater, as its name suggests, is the biggest of the anteater family with up to 212 cm in length. Locally known as ‘oso palmero’ (literally ‘palm bear’) due to its palm leaf shaped tale, this specimen camouflages excellently in the gallery forests, along the lush Andean foothills and in the prairies of Casanare. It visits up to 200 termite nests per day, which it plunders with its long sticky tongue, and roams its often large territories alone – preferably. If disturbed by other anteaters – especially males – or dogs and even humans it can turn into a bloody fighter thanks to its front claws. It has poor eyesight but its sense of smell is 40 times stronger than that of humans!
With its distinctive appearance and habits, the anteater has been featured in pre-Columbian myths and folktales.It definitely is my personal favorite!
The Orinoco Crocodile lives in Casanare’s East and is the biggest crocodile species in the Americas, the largest predator in South America and ranks among the largest reptiles in the world. It reaches up to 5 meters in length and is a top-level predator in its food chain, feeding on mammals, birds, fish and other reptiles such as caimans, which are also very common in Casanare.
Regardless of its high rank in the food chain, the Orinoco Crocodile is listed as critically endangered. It was once thought to have inhabited a wide range of habitats, from tropical forests to the streams of the Andes foothills. Today, the Orinoco Crocodile is restricted to the Llanos plains and their seasonal freshwater rivers.