Brazil: Save world’s largest wetland! A River delta of the upper Paraguay near Bolivia

“It’s a type of Noah’s Ark but it risks running aground,” biologist
and tourist guide Elder Brandao de Oliveira says of the Pantanal.
Jaguars still roam the world’s largest wetland and endangered Hyacinth
Macaws nest in its trees but advancing farms and industries are
destroying Brazil’s Pantanal region at an alarming rate.

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The degradation of the landlocked river delta on the upper Paraguay
River which straddles Brazil’s borders with Bolivia and Paraguay is a
reminder of how economic progress can cause large-scale environmental
damage. Brazil’s exports of beef, iron and to a lesser extent soy —
the main products from the Pantanal — have rocketed in recent years,
driven largely by global demand.

Less well-known than the Amazon rain forest, the Pantanal is larger than England and harbors a huge fresh water reserve and extraordinary wildlife, ranging from 220-pound (100-kg) jaguars to giant otters that mingle in water holes packed with nine-foot (3-metre) caimans. The world’s largest freshwater wetland, it is almost 10 times the size of Florida’s Everglades. Of
the Pantanal’s 650 bird species, the largest has a wingspan of nearly
3 metres and the smallest weighs only 2 grams (0.07 ounce).

During the rainy season the water level rises by as much as five metres, creating a mosaic of dark-brown swamps with islands of shrubs and tall standing tropical trees. When the water first hits dry soil it loses oxygen and
kills schools of fish as part of a nose-wrenching natural life cycle.
A melting pot for various ecosystems, the Pantanal has the greatest
concentration of fauna in the Americas, according to The Nature
Conservancy, a global environmental advocacy group. But some species
are in danger of disappearing, including the long-snouted giant
anteater, which claws into anthills and flicks its two-foot tongue up
to 160 times per minute to quickly gobble up stinging ants.

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