Nestled in the heart of South America, the Pantanal is the world’s largest tropical wetland. This ecoregion spans three countries—Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay—and covers more than 70,000 square miles. While the Amazon usually gets more attention, the Pantanal is also one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth, home to more than 4,700 species of plants and animals.
Today, much of the Pantanal remains intact. But less than 2% of the wetland is federally protected, and deforestation, poor infrastructure planning and development, pollution, and other environmental pressures threaten to degrade this unique ecosystem.
For 20 years, WWF and its partners have worked with national governments and local communities to protect the Pantanal from growing threats and conserve its native species.
Discover just a few that live in this incredible place:
1. Hyacinth Macaw
About 3,000 hyacinth macaws—the world’s largest parrot—reside in the Pantanal, where they eat fruits and nuts and nest in naturally hollow manduvi trees. Birdwatchers identify this rare bird by its apparent smile, cobalt blue plumage, and yellow trim around its eyes. Yet it’s these unique features that make it desirable on the black market—a trade that almost drove the bird to extinction in the 1990s. Rehabilitation efforts have since recuperated population size, but the hyacinth macaw remains a vulnerable species. In Brazil and beyond, WWF works to end illegal wildlife trafficking that threatens many rare species.
The world’s largest rodent, capybaras can grow to about 175 pounds—about the size of a St. Bernard. With webbed feet that make them excellent swimmers and the ability to stay submerged for long periods of time to avoid predators, these mammals are highly adapted to life on both land and in water.
Jaguars once roamed from the southernmost tip of South America to the US border. But across Central and South America, these large felines have lost almost 40% of their native range. The world’s largest concentration of jaguars now exists in the Pantanal, where abundant prey and waterways offer an ideal habitat for these powerful, water-loving felines.
4. Maned Wolf
Maned wolves are the largest canid in South America, standing about three feet tall on long, thin legs adapted to help them see above tall grasses. Though these big-eared wolves are protected by law in the Pantanal’s three countries, habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching, and disease have taken a toll on this species. WWF is working to minimize these impacts on the maned wolf by keeping its habitat intact and minimizing human encroachment.
5. Jabiru stork
Considered a symbol of the Pantanal, the jabiru stork—whose name means “swollen neck”—is the tallest flying bird in South and Central America. Each year, tropical rains flood the Pantanal, which becomes an important breeding ground for fish and other aquatic wildlife—food that these wading birds rely on. But scientists worry that the many dams now proposed in the region could impact this fragile cycle, jeopardizing the jabiru storks’ nests and food. That’s why WWF works to make sure that governments and companies consider local ecosystems when planning and developing new infrastructure.