Monday, February 18, 2008


Pantanal, Brazil

pantanal brazilPantanal image courtesy:

The Mother all Swamps

When we talk of Brazil the word ‘the world’s largest’ has to be commonly used; like th Harbour of Rio the world’s largest natural port, Christ the Redeemer the statue, Amazon the largest river and largest tropical forest, Carnival world’s largest cultural event etc. Pantanal is not different as it is the world’s largest fresh water wetland far bigger than any comparable place. There are so many rivers that flow through this area which lies slightly slanted. The strange thing about this fresh water wetland is that until recently only movie people knew about its existence, still it is not getting the attention it deserves.

A sea within land

pantanal swamp brazilPantanal image courtesy:

It is said that early explorers to this region took it for a sea seeing the flooded Pantanal! The word ‘Pantanal’ originated from Portuguese word ‘pantano’ meaning marsh land. The Pantanal is 190,000 sq km in area and its major portion comes under Brazil (in Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul Provinces) and a minor portion in under Bolivia and Paraguay. During rainy seasons; 80% of its area gets submerged under water forming a miniature sea within land.

Amazon snatched its title

This unique eco system is home to world’s most diverse varieties of plants. This credit of hosting the largest variety of plants and animals is generally attributed to Amazon Forests that being more researched due its accessibility. This title is actually due to Pantanal as it hosts greater number of animals and plants. It is the inaccessibility of these marshy Pantanal areas that made it less popular among scientists and naturalists and consequently deprived it the due status.

A crater that got filled

Pantanal can be described as a gigantic reservoir with the size of the State of Florida that stores the water that flows through the Paraguay and many other big and small rivers that flow from the hilly areas of Plan Alta. As per the geologists Pantanal had been a gigantic crater that got filled by the silt these rivers have deposited for millions of years that have passed.


map of pantanal conservation area brazilPantanal, brazil map courtesy: encyclopedia britannica

Majority of the Pantanal area belongs to Brazil with Bolivia and Paraguay sharing the rest. It is located in the western edge of

Brazil with arid forests in the western and north western boundaries, degraded forests (Arid Chaco) in the south west, Wet Chaco in the southern border and its north, Cerrado Savannah in the east and south-east.

Giant sponge

The Pantanal is compared to a giant sponge above 300 feet above sea level; which equals the state of Kansas in size; that sucks water from over flowing rivers and stores it for the livelihood of its inhabitants; without which the water would have directly flown in to the sea and become useless. The rainy season is between Decembers to May (rainfall 100 to 140 cm); during these times water level in Pantanal may rise up to 3 meters. This gigantic marsh land is not just a storehouse of pure water on earth but it purifies water by storing in open and let the impurities percolate and let it flow to be used by people and numerous living things that inhabits in this area.

A unique eco system

pantanal Pantanal swamp image courtesy:

Those who are interested in watching wild life in its natural settings no place offers so much of them, the biodiversity of this area is astonishing 3500 species of plants, 650 species of birds, 400 species of fish, 100 species of mammals, 80 species of reptiles are just some of the inhabitants of this wonderful land. It is believed that about 10 million of crocodiles live here comfortably. Pantanal is home to the famous ‘Hyacinth Macaw’ a parrot like bird which is included in the ‘endangered list’; it is said that a pair of this bird fetches about $ 10,000 in the black market.

hyacinth macaw pantanal

hyacinth macaw pantanal image courtesy:

10 million crocodiles to guard!

Animals like capybaras, caimans (about 30 million), jaguars, giant otters, giants of snakes like the famous anacondas, birds like kites, hawks, storks, hyacinth macaws, all are there as much as you can count, you never can count the crocodiles that live around it is more than 10 million! In Fazenda of Rio Negro alone biologists have discovered about 25 species of snakes 11 species of lizards and 400 varieties of birds!

pantanalPantanal crocodile image courtesy:

The life cycle that goes on!

During rain as rivers rise to swallow the plains farmers who use this land for grazing cattle retreat to higher places, fish and amphibians have happy times; mammals and other animals seek asylum on hillocks found here and there but plants and trees which can’t move face the tide they are adapted to flooding and grow as usual. When water starts to recede the reverse is the order, mammals are a happy lot they roam free, while poor fish get trapped in to some puddles to be eaten by predators; and the farmers come back with their cattle. This cycle goes on repeating every year.

Let Pantanal live!

Though bestowed with so many animals and plants Pantanal is not a tourist spot, there are very few roads to travel and the place remains submerged for about 5months in a year; swamps infested with crocodiles. The region of late has become victim to human interference like cattle grazers, gold miners and iron and steel plant that uses charcoal of burned trees from the locality as raw material etc.

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