The most enticing lies are flattering mirrors. They reflect us the way we want to be seen. We realize, for instance, that humanity is pushing animals across the planet toward a future where they cannot survive. We are causing a mass extinction, but this is difficult to face. So, offered a counterexample, we want to believe. Wild populations of all the big cats are in steep decline—cheetahs, tigers, leopards, lions, jaguars. Conservation groups say only about 15,000 jaguars remain due to poaching, deforestation, habitat destruction, and population fragmentation. We are jaguar killers, but we want to see ourselves as saviors.
A Brazilian soldier rescues a jaguar that plunged into the water to escape the massive rainforest wildfires sweeping the Amazon basin in August 2019.
The photograph is unaltered, but appropriated and timeshifted. It was made by photographer None Mangueira in early 2016—well over three years prior to the season of extreme Amazonian conflagrations. Unsurprisingly, the feline also has a backstory. The handsome water-loving cat is Jiquitaia, the jaguar mascot of the Comando Militar de la Amazônía in Manaus, Brazil. According to the photographer, the image is one of many showing Jiquitaia on his daily swim with soldiers in the Rio Negro. The military rescued the jaguar as cub after hunters killed his mother. The photograph was made to promote the preservation of the species, part of the military’s “Jaguars in the Amazon” project.