The Pantanal Conservation Area of Brazil
Located primarily in the Mato Grosso do Sul state of Brazil, with parts extending into Bolivia and Paraguay, the Pantanal Conservation area is one of the largest tropical wetland areas in the world, and has up to twelve distinct ecosystems supporting an astounding variety of flora and fauna. This vast region of wetlands is bordered by the Gran Chaco dry forests to the southwest, and the Chiquitano dry forests to the west and northwest.
It is estimated that the ecosystems of the Pantanal (from the Portuguese word pântano, meaning bog, swamp, quagmire, wetland or marsh) are home to a thousand species of birds, 400 species of fish, 480 reptile species, 300 species of mammals and more than 9,000 subspecies of invertebrates. There are a number of rare and endangered animals living in the Pantanal, including the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), the giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), the South American tapir (Tapirus terrestris) and the yacare caiman (Caiman yacare). On a positive note though, the Pantanal is home to one of the world's largest jaguar (Panthera onca) populations.
Among the endangered bird species living in the Pantanal is the hyacinth macaw (Anodorhyncus hyacinthinus) – a beautiful deep blue-colored macaw with distinctive yellow markings above and on either side of its beak and around its eyes. While habitat loss has taken its toll on the hyacinth macaw population, its main threat is the exotic pet trade, as birds are trapped in the wild and shipped off to collectors around the world, with many dying in transit. Also, they are hunted for food by the Kayapo Indians, who use its feather for ornaments and headdresses. The hyacinth macaw is listed as 'endangered' on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List and is listed as a protected species by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).
In addition to permanent residents, the Pantanal is a vital sanctuary for migratory birds from the north. It is also an essential breeding area for aquatic life and refuge for animals mentioned previously. As most of the land within the boundaries of the Pantanal is privately owned and farmed, the owners play an important role in protecting this spectacular natural region of Brazil.
Picture courtesy of Tininha Odebrecht (Wikimedia Commons)