I was only 6 years old when I read in my South American wildlife book that the animal which holds the title of ‘second fastest land animal on the planet’ was the Maned Wolf – according to Google it would make the Top 25; with a speed of around 76km/h . This slightly bizarre looking animal – think Red Fox on legs like stilts – is found on the South American continent and 31 years later I was lucky enough to see my first Maned Wolf in Canastra national park, Minas Gerais, Brazil.
The Maned Wolf is the largest Canid in South America and I was mistakenly told that it was a member of the fox family and not a true wolf. Although it is true that it is not a wolf, it is also not a fox and actually ‘occupies’ its own genus called Chrysocyon – which means ‘Golden Dog’. It is known locally as Aguará Guazú (Large Fox) and is classified as ‘near threatened ‘by the IUCN
The Maned Wolf loves to hunt in more open habitat, particularly grasslands and open meadows. It is slightly puzzling to me why they are so built for speed, because actually their diet and hunting technique do not need a huge amount of speed. Infact, this omnivorous animal (about half its diet is fruits and plants!) hunts more like a fox; pouncing on small rodents like voles and rabbits and sometimes pawing the ground to flush the rodents from their burrows. Maybe their great speed is to escape predators and more of a defence mechanism. When I watched Maned Wolves in Canastra national park, I was told that they shared his habitat with another apex predator – the Puma – and each year several Maned Wolf are killed by this athletic and deadly big cat.
As we have already discussed, Maned Wolves preferred habitat is open grasslands or Pampas as it is known in South America. Our first sighting of Maned Wolf was in Canastra national park back in 2007. The Upper Canastra national park at an altitude of approximately 1000M, resembles the tops of hills on the Scottish Highlands. With long grassed turned brown by the regular frosts and cold winds. Since the Maned Wolf is a shy animal with acute hearing, our two viewings were at considerable distance through a viewing scope. One viewing was particularly interesting, as a Maned Wolf switched into hunting mode and slowly stalked a large black bird – did not identify it, but it was the size of a grouse.
Most of our clients prefer a genuine wild experience when it comes to watching wildlife on their Brazil wildlife holiday, but there is one rather unique location in Brazil which warranted a visit, even just for our own curiosity. So, we found ourselves in a cold evening sat outside the door to the chapel with a couple of plates of chicken pieces just a few metres from our feet. Fortunately, we managed to avoid a public holiday or the weekend and there was less than 10 patient souls outside with us. The first view of the Maned Wolf as it walked cautiously up the ancient monastery steps, were its huge, almost comical, ears. Everyone kept quiet and we were privileged to see this beautiful animal at close quarters for several minutes before it vanished into the darkness of the night.
The capital city of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, is your starting point for the Maned Wolf safari and we recommend a total of 4 nights staying in the town of Sao Roque in simple ensuite accommodation. We can first visit the lower Canastra national park for some birding and the chance to photograph some marmosets. Then for the following 3 days we can focus on the Upper Canastra; which involved a bumpy 1 hour journey on a poor quality road. Once up on the top we can scan from several vantage points for Maned Wolf and Giant Anteaters. If you would like to join us on this unique mammal viewing Brazil wildlife holiday then check out our Maned Wolf and Jaguar safari.