The Pantanal is the largest wetland in the world and a Unesco World Heritage Site. Located in the heart of South America, the Pantanal stretches into Bolivia and Paraguay, but the majority of its 240 km² lie within western Brazil.
Life in the Pantanal is ruled by the annual cycle of rising and falling water levels, determined by the rains and the Paraguay River.
During the rainy season, from October to March, the rivers rise and gradually flood the low-lying land. When the rains cease, only the higher areas remain dry. As the rains diminish and the rivers recede, the land begins to dry, forming small islands in higher areas.
The Pantanal wetland is home to plants and animals from various adjacent ecosystems. Along the border with Bolivia and Paraguay we find a dry forest, characterized by trees like the Brazil nut tree, cacti and bromeliads. Bordering on the rainforest, the northeastern Pantanal is influenced by Amazonian species, while the northeast borders on the grasslands of the central plateau. The diverse vegetation, rich soil and abundant water supplies attract a variety of wildlife.
The most coveted animal of the Pantanal is the jaguar, but the region is also home to many other mammals, such as anteaters, tapirs, capybaras and armadillos. The rivers and fish also attract many bird species, such as storks, herons, ibises, ducks, macaws and parrots.
The abundance of birds is truly magnificent and large nesting colonies are a flurry of activity. When the water levels are low, the fish become trapped in smaller lakes and birds crowd around the shores to feed. In addition to numerous fish, the water is also home to two large reptilian predators: the Cayman and yellow anaconda.
People also make their home in the Pantanal. The main economy activity of the region is cattle farming. The alluvial soil makes for perfect grazing land. Near the wetlands we find large cities, sugar mills, farms and mining. Modern civilization has replaced a once rustic and simple lifestyle. Environmental groups are fighting to preserve the still pristine areas, untouched by human intervention.