Saturday, December 17, 2011

Brazil's Wetlands - The Pantanal

by Leighton Gage

Four times the size of England, one-third the size of France, almost forty times the size of the Everglades, it is, by far, the largest wetland region on the face of the earth.
It's called the Pantanal.

Mostly it's in Brazil, but it also stretches into Paraguay and Bolivia.
In all, it covers a total area of more than 75,000 square miles.

The name comes from the Portuguese pantano, meaning swamp or marsh, an apt description, because eighty percent of the region is submerged during the rainy season.

More than 400 kinds of fish swim in the rivers and and clearwater lakes of the Pantanal.

More than 480 kinds of reptiles slither in its mud,

Some of them are anacondas that like to feed upon crocodiles.

Tapirs can be found there...

...and anteaters;


and coatis;

great otters,

many varieties of monkeys,

rare, maned wolves,

jaguars, and a lovely little creature we call...

the Jaguatirica, a pixie bobcat that looks like a cat...but is most definitely not. Cute aren't they? So cute that some people have tried to domesticate them - without success and with lots of bites and scratches to show for their trouble.  
In all, there are more than 300 species of mammals in the Pantanal...

and more than 1,000 species of birds...

including 15 different kinds of parrots.

The fauna, too is impressive. There are more than 1,700 varieties of flowering plants.

How many more varieties of animals?  How many more varieties of plants?
Nobody knows.
The Pantanal is a mother lode of unrecorded wildlife.

And it isn't only the variety that's impressive. The numbers are, too. Current estimates are that the region contains more than ten millioncaimans.

Readers from Europe and the United States sometimes question my reasons for living in a country that has more than its fair share of criminality and violence.

One reason, among many, is the Pantanal.


Jean Henry Mead said...

Great photos, Leighton. And what a wonderful variety of animals.

Carola Dunn said...

Leighton, friends in Europe question why I choose to live in the US, for exactly the same reason. (The answer is grandchildren and habit...)