ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A New Mexico photographer made an incredible discovery on his latest international adventure — this time, in the wetlands of Brazil. Kevin Dooley has worked in a number of countries and he says it helps him see things in nature that many might not see.
“I think this year, I may be in Albuquerque two to three months of the entire year,” said Dooley, as he recalls where he’s been so far in 2019, adding that he has a trip in Zimbabwe coming up in November. “This year, alone, we have traveled to South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Ecuador, Peru, Ethiopia, Uganda, India, Kenya, Tanzania, Brazil, Alaska.”
Dooley takes people on photo safaris all over the world. It gives them an up-close experience with wildlife.
“Let’s take people on safari all over the world, let’s let them experience wildlife from a photographer’s point of view, where they can get amazing images,” said Dooley. “We take people out to photograph wildlife, but not just to photograph wildlife, but to feel nature, to feel the love of nature.”
This summer, that led Dooley out of New Mexico and into Brazil’s Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland, located near the Amazon.
“There’s a lot of really cool things about the Pantanal,” said Dooley. “We were down there photographing these jaguars.”
The Pantanal is home to roughly 5,000 jaguars, but only about 160 live in the part his team was in. All are given names, identified through spots, stripes or scars.
“They give jaguars that they have spotted a name. They will identify a jaguar either through markings on his face, maybe through scars, you know, they all have very distinctive markings and they’re all different from one jaguar to the next,” said Dooley. “If there’s a new jaguar that has been seen, they will have the person who discovers that jaguar and photographs it, actually name that jaguar.”
Dooley did just that. He and his team discovered her while boating along one of the rivers.
“We were ripping down this river, actually going to another spot,” said Dooley. “We come around the corner, and it’s getting late in the evening, and boom! We see her and the male standing there on the side of the river looking right at us.”
The jaguar was a new female, never before identified, and likely had never seen humans before. Dooley says she likely moved into the area to mate. A biologist on the trip confirmed the rare find.
“The biologist told me, ‘Hmm, I don’t think I’ve seen that jaguar before,'” said Dooley. “I’ve learned over the years as a wildlife photographer, if you see something, man, the camera’s up and you photograph it because you just don’t know.”
In addition to owning Kevin’s Photography in Albuquerque, taking on a number of different photo projects, Dooley also owns Idube Photo Safaris. “Idube” means zebra by the Zulu people of South Africa. Dooley says he contemplated naming the jaguar after his wife or even the camera lenses he uses, but then knew “Idube” was meant to be.
“We’ve named her Idube. Idube is the actual name of my safari company,” said Dooley. “I really felt like Idube was perfect because she actually had stripes on the front of her so she had this zebra kind of look about her.”
Dooley says the find was rare. He also experienced other incredible moments while in the Pantanal, capturing them through his camera lens.
“Another jaguar that was up in a tree about 8 to 10 feet above the water and she was asleep up in this tree,” said Dooley. “A caiman moved in underneath her in the water. She was watching it and snuck out to the edge of the tree limb and bam, she jumped off the tree, into the water, on top of the caiman, huge belly flop splash.”
He also recalled another find involving a caiman, which is similar to alligators and crocodiles, but built a little smaller. He was taking photographs when he found the head of an anaconda in the caiman’s mouth, but the anaconda’s body wrapped tightly around the caiman, unsure of who ultimately won that battle.
Dooley’s photos have even landed him in National Geographic more than a dozen times. He’s also currently up for a few prestigious awards for his work. He heads to Alaska this week for another adventure.