Recently, a picture of a boy swimming in the river with two jaguars and a dog appeared on the network. The photo gave rise to many opinions: some considered it a skillful photoshop, others proved that the animals were not real. But, as it turned out, the picture is real, and, moreover, it captures a completely ordinary situation for this boy.
The boy who poses with predators is called Thiago Silveira, he is 12 years old, and he has spent his whole life in the company of jaguars. Thiago’s parents are Leandro Silveira and Ana Giacomo, well-known biologists in Brazil, coordinators of the world’s only Jaguar Institute (IOP). This institute, located in Goias, studies spotted predators and looks for ways to preserve them.
The boy’s father, Leandro Silveira, who took that sensational picture, talked about his son:
“My son grew up surrounded by jaguars after birth and learned to coexist with predators from infancy. Naturally, we have introduced some restrictions, but he already knows how to behave with them. It’s absolutely natural for him. It’s part of his daily life, there’s nothing special about it.”
By the time Thiago was born, 3 baby jaguars were already growing up in his family. The child was strolled along with the animals and even fed from a bottle at the same time. The boy understood from an early age that he was not like everyone else – few children had the chance to grow up with predatory cats.
“Everyone in our family loves and respects each other, I’ve always liked helping my parents take care of animals.”
Thiago Silveira speaks so modestly about the relationship in his unusual family. Since childhood, the father instilled in his son that for a jaguar, a person is not an object of hunting, and the animal only reacts to our actions. Leandro believes that it is necessary to show respect for animals, for example, leaving them alone when they need it. The scientist says that jaguars quite clearly demonstrate their mood and attitude to others.
“It is important to be aware of the boundaries. When a jaguar wants to communicate, he comes. They are not social animals, but they are able to create long-term relationships.”
That’s what Thiago’s mother says about communicating with predators. She does not recall any conflicts between the child and the jaguars at least once. At the same time, she emphasizes that her son has never been alone with the animals.
“We are always very careful when handling jaguars and other animals. It is very important for us to follow safety rules.”
The jaguars of the Silveira family live on 123 acres (about 50 hectares) of territory owned by Leandro and Ana. Other people are not allowed to set foot on this land, but not only for security reasons. Biologists want to provide their pets with maximum peace and comfort, close to natural conditions.
The Jaguar Institute was founded in 2002 as a regular center for the study of large South American cats. In response to the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Energy Sources’ request, a shelter was established for several orphaned jaguar kittens.
Today, the nursery premises occupy most of the family’s possessions and half of the premises in the house and auxiliary buildings. Leandro says that 95% of the institute’s funding is their personal savings, and 5% is the help of caring people. The search for funds is an important part of the life of the family in which 14 jaguars live today, of which 4 are cubs.
In total, 35 animals have passed through the Jaguar Institute over the past 10 years. Predators are often given to other organizations that are engaged in the protection and study of these beautiful animals, unfortunately, already included in the IUCN Red List.
The jaguar is not yet under threat of extinction, although there is still a danger to the species. The main enemy of this cat is a man who barbarically destroys tropical forests – the main habitat of jaguars. The animal is found on the territory of 21 countries located in South, Central and North America, but the largest population of 30 thousand lives in Brazil.