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In-Depth

Exploring the Gran Chaco

A wild and varied wilderness

The word chaco stems from the Quechua word chaku, meaning "hunting land"—a testament to the Gran Chaco's wildlife, which supported indigenous peoples long before European settlers arrived. The region also contains an array of wildlife and landscapes, from dry mountain grasslands to woody forests to palm stands.

Illustrated species living in the dry landscapes of the Gran Chaco Illustrated species living in the humid landscapes of the Gran Chaco
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Chacoan horned frog

Ceratophrys cranwelli

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2

Rainbow Boa

Epicrates cenchria

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3

Guanaco

Lama guanicoe

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4

Greater rhea

Rhea americana

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5

South American tapir

Tapirus terrestris

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6

Giant anteater

Myrmecophaga tridactyla

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7

Chacoan cavy

Pediolagus salinicola

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8

Chacoan peccary

Catagonus wagneri

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9

Jaguar

Panthera anca

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10

Southern three-banded armadillo

Tolypeutes matacus

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11

King Vulture

Sarcaramphus papa

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12

Black howler monkey

Alouatta caraya

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13

Jabiru

Jabiru Mycteria

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14

Common potoo

Nyctibius griseus

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15

Marsh deer

Blastocerus dichotomus

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16

Maned wolf

Chrysocyan brachyurus

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17

Strange-tailed tyrant

Alecturus risora

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18

Capybara

Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris

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19

Ocelot

Leopardus pardalis

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20

Chaco side-necked turtle

Acanthochelys pallidipectoris

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21

Broad-snouted caiman

Caiman latirostris

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Dry Chaco

Map of the Gran Chaco within South America

Mountain

From the western limit of the Dry Chaco. Characterized by dry forests that grown on mountainsides. In higher altitudes, the forest gives way to steppes. Not much of the subregion remains.

Arid

Covers the southwest portion of the Dry Chaco. Its location east of the Andes and far from the Atlantic isolates it from the humid winds. This area is very dry and contains salt flats, along with smaller, less diverse forests than those in the Humid Chaco.

Semi-Arid

Contains the most extensive forests in the Gran Chaco. Before wide-ranging logging took place in the Semi-Arid Chaco, its dominant trees were the red quebracho and white quebracho.

illustrated dry landscape of the Gran Chaco
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King Vulture

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2

Guanaco

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3

Lithraea
Molleoides

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4

Quimilo
prickly pear

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5

Black-and-white-tegu

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6

Toothpick cactus

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7

Chacoan peccary

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8

Lampalagua

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9

Silk floss tree

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10

Jaguar

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11

White quebracho

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12

Chacoan cavy

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Humid Chaco

Map of the Gran Chaco within South America

Quebrachal (strong forest)

Growing on the highest grounds in the Semi-Arid and Humid Chaco are wooded areas called quebrachales. (The region is generally flat, although some areas sit lower than others.) The quebrachales are dominated by large red quebrachos, which can grow to almost 80 feet tall.

Palm Groves

Sit on slightly lower ground than quebrachales and grasslands. These areas are dominated by a variety of grasses and Copernicia alba, a palm species that can grow up to 80 feet tall. In periods of heavy rain, these grasslands and palm groves partially flood; in dry periods, they suffer wildfires.

Gallery Forest

Located along raised patches of ground around rivers and wetlands called albardónes. (Albardón means "pack-saddle," a shape these raised areas resemble.) The tallest trees grow on the highest grounds, and shorter trees grow on slightly lower grounds.

illustration of the humid landscapes in the Gran Chaco
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Ocelot

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2

Capybara

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3

Maned Wolf

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3

Strange-tailed tyrant

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4

Red hay

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5

Copernicia alba

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6

Jabiru

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7

Crowned solitary eagle

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8

Marsh deer

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9

Broad-snouted caiman

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Grasslands

Found in areas with sandy or humid soil. These areas shelter a wide variety of native plant and animal species—including maned wolves, whose long legs allow them to see prey over tall grasses.

Estuaries and Marshlands

Found in the lowest zones of the Humid Chaco, where the ground stays covered in water almost year-round and hinders the growth of trees. These areas shelter an enormous quantity of aquatic plant and animal species.

Dry Chaco

Mountain

From the western limit of the Dry Chaco. Characterized by dry forestes that grown on mountainsides. In higher altitudes, the forest gives way to steppes. Not much of the subregion remains.

Mountain landscape of the Gran Chaco with various native species
1

King Vulture

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2

Guanaco

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3

Lithraea
Molleoides

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4

Quimilo
prickly pear

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5

Black-and-white-tegu

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Arid

Covers the southwest portion of the Dry Chaco. Its location east of the Andes and far from the Atlantic isolates it from the humid winds. This area is very dry and contains salt flats, along with smaller, less diverse forests than those in the Humid Chaco.

Arid landscape of the Gran Chaco
1

Toothpick cactus

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2

Chacoan peccary

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3

Lampalagua

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Semi-Arid

Contains the most extensive forests in the Gran Chaco. Before wide-ranging logging took place in the Semi-Arid Chaco, its dominant trees were the red quebracho and white quebracho.

Arid landscape of the Gran Chaco
1

Silk floss tree

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2

Jaguar

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3

White quebracho

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4

Chacoan cavy

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Quebrachal (strong forest)

Growing on the highest grounds in the Semi-Arid and Humid Chaco are wooded areas called quebrachales. (The region is generally flat, although some areas sit lower than others.) The quebrachales are dominated by large red quebrachos, which can grow to almost 80 feet tall.

Quebrachal landscape of the Gran Chaco
1

Ocelot

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Grasslands

Found in areas with sandy or humid soil. These areas shelter a wide variety of native plant and animal species—including maned wolves, whose long legs allow them to see prey over tall grasses.

Grasslands landscape of the Gran Chaco
1

Capybara

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2

Maned Wolf

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3

Strange-tailed tyrant

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4

Red hay

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Palm Groves

Sit on slightly lower ground than quebrachales and grasslands. These areas are dominated by a variety of grasses and Copernicia alba, a palm species that can grow up to 80 feet tall. In periods of heavy rain, these grasslands and palm groves partially flood; in dry periods, they suffer wildfires.

Palm Groves landscape of the Gran Chaco
1

Copernicia alba

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2

Jabiru

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Gallery Forest

Located along raised patches of ground around rivers and wetlands called albardónes. (Albardón means "pack-saddle," a shape these raised areas resemble.) The tallest trees grow on the highest grounds, and shorter trees grow on slightly lower grounds.

Gallery forest landscape landscape of the Gran Chaco
1

Crowned solitary eagle

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2

Marsh deer

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Estuaries and Marshlands

Found in the lowest zones of the Humid Chaco, where the ground stays covered in water almost year-round and hinders the growth of trees. These areas shelter an enormous quantity of aquatic plant and animal species.

Gallery forest landscape landscape of the Gran Chaco
1

Broad-snouted caiman

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