The Maned Wolf in Caraça´s Sanctuary

lobo guaraThis animal is called Chrysocyon brachyurus, which means “short tail golden animal”. It’s called Guará because in Tupi-Guarani, the native indians language, guará means “red”. It has a golden body; its paws and nape hair are black; its tail, pouch and part of the face are white as the inside part of its ears, which move like a radar, catching every sound and movement.

It’s the largest South America canid, it can be found from the South of Amazon to Uruguay, except for the coast, the high peaks or Mata Atlântica. It is a canid, that means it belongs to the family of the dogs, coyotes, jackals, foxes, European, American and Canadian wolves, the Canis lupus. It is the largest canid in South America because the female stands almost 90cm tall and the male stands almost 95cm. And from the tip of its muzzle to the tip of its tale it is 1.45m long.

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Its legs are long to make its movements easier, since it is an animal from Cerrado, a typically Brazilian open landscape. The Chrysocyon brachyurus is not an animal from the dense woods, it is from the fields. It wanders on roads and trails and anywhere where there is low height vegetation. By the way, those who go for a walk on Belchior’s Bath, Pinheiros, Tanque Grande (Big Tank), Prainha, Cascatinha and Bocaina, will be able to easily see the maned wolf footprints on the trails. Its footprints are composed by four fingers, the middle ones are a little bit  closer, you can see the pad sign and the claws.

The Chrysocyon brachyurus lives about 16 years.  Its mean weight is about 25kg and when it is hunting it walks around 30Km per night. It is a nocturnal habits animal; it is more agile at the night-fall and at dawn. In the daylight it rests in areas of grass fields. It does not live in burrows. The Chrysocyon brachyurus is omnivorous: it eats everything. It eats small animals and birds. It keeps hunting, in spite of the food that priests offer to feed it. This food does not make it dependent on the priests feeding.

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Among the small animals, it eats mice, opossums, rabbits, wild-rabbits, guinea pigs, snakes and frogs. Among the birds, it eats jacus (Penelope obscura e P. Superciliaris), saracuras and other birds. By the way, it needs animals fur and birds feathers to help its peristaltic movements of its digestion. It also eats fruits like fruta-do-lobo (“wolf’s fruit” as it is known in Portuguese) or lobeira (“wolf’s plant”- Solanum lycocarpum), peach, passion fruit, guava, etc. Furthermore, it is attracted by strong smells, like fruits and rotten food, reason why it keeps messing trash cans.

The maned wolf has solitary habits; it does not live in a pack of wolves as the Canis lupus. It does not howl, it barks. In Caraça we just have a couple of wolves. There is not territorial space for more than a couple, because they are territorial; they use to mark the whole territory with their urine. The Caraça´s wolves couple needs 2.500 hectares (2.500 soccer fields) to live. It is almost all the Cerrado landscape that we have here. Our property is approximately 11233 hectares, but the wolf is an animal which lives in Cerrado landscape; it does not go to Mata Atlântica and the high peaks.

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The breeding season is in April and May. We know it because that is the time when male and female start walking together. They even go upstairs to the church and eat together from the same tray. The gestation period lasts from 62 to 65 days. The puppies, around 1 to 3, are born dark grey and are left in holes, sometimes termite-holes, to be protected. They are fed by their parents for approximately 2 or 3 months. Their parents regurgitate the food to nourish them. After a while they start going for little walks with the female. When they are 5 or 6 months old they start learning how to hunt and to climb the church stairs in Caraça. A female maned wolf was seen pushing a puppy upstairs with her snout.

When they reach 1 year old, reaching their sexual maturity, they lose their family relationship and keep just a gender relationship. Then they start disputing the territory where they lived before as a family. Males fight against each other, and females fight against each other. The winners dominate the territory and expel the other wolves, which will look for other Cerrado fields to survive.

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The night when most wolves were seen in Caraça, was the night that 5 of them appeared together: three puppies eating from the tray, while the female was watching them from upstairs and the male was urinating on the palm trees, marking the territory. Because of what Caraça and other institutions do, promoting the pacific coexistence with the maned wolf, it is not on the list of threatened with extinction animals anymore. It is still on the vulnerable animals list; it remains dangerous, but it is not in the risk of extinction anymore.

This tradition began in Caraça in May 1982, when some trash cans were found messed up and knocked down. Brother Thomaz, who nowadays lives in Belo Horizonte, told Father Tobias, his superior that must have been dogs. Father Tobias found that hard to believe in; for a dog would not have climbed up the hills so often. Then, they started to observe and found out that the big dog who was messing up the trash cans from Caraça’s Sanctuary was the Chrysocyon brachyurus. Then, they started putting a meat tray on each gate, and in the morning they were found messed up. After while, they brought the trays closer to the church stairs and for a while the wolves were fed downstairs until they decided to bring the tray up. The tray was put upstairs, the priest came upstairs and the wolf came upstairs!

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“And while Mr. Wolf doesn’t come…”

enquanto seu lobo nao vem

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