Published September 11, 2013
On August 25, photographer Paul Donahue received a call alerting him a large male jaguar had been spotted prowling along the Tres Irmãos River in central Brazil.
Upon arriving at the scene, Donahue watched the predator nicknamed Mick Jaguar stalk a 120-pound yacaré caiman, a kissing cousin of the crocodile native to South America.
After 40 minutes of patient waiting, Mick Jaguar finally made his move and pounced on the unsuspecting massive caiman.
"We had seen kills before, but nothing so spectacular and horrific nor at such close range," Donahue told National Geographic. "It's made me think a lot about the fragility of life and the fine line between life and death."
Jaguars are ambush killers, meaning they pierce the skull or neck of their prey with one speedy bite. Most other cats suffocate their prey by grabbing onto their neck.
Mick Jaguar's technique was no different; Donahue reports the animal used its right front paw to grab the caiman before biting the reptile's back slightly below the head. Quickly adjusting his bite, the jaguar bit into the base of the caiman's skull and dragged his kill across the inlet.
"We all just stood there with our mouths hanging open, not believing what we had just witnessed," Donahue said.
Mick Jaguar, known for his damaged right eye was first observed in 2011. Since 2004, Donahue and his colleagues have recorded approximately 88 jaguars in the area of the Meeting of the Waters State Park, National Geographic reported.
For more photos, visit NationalGeographic.com.