In Peru’s Candamo Valley, one of South America’s most remote pieces of rainforest, wild jaguars still prowl the forest. Sometimes you see them, often times you don’t. For The Atlantic, journalist Nadia Drake narrates her startling, close encounter with the Americas’ largest wild cat, and she examines the traits that might equip the jaguar to survive the world’s true top predator: people. What she finds is a powerful stealthy predator who, instead of hunting humans, tries to avoid confrontation with us and find ways to live on the margins ─ possibly because it knows another able competitor when it sees one.

No one knew how long the jaguar had been watching us. We’d pulled our canoe up to the spot in the late afternoon, then macheted a clearing in a flat patch of jungle uphill from the river. Then we’d cooked dinner under the observant gaze of several monkeys, and afterward…

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