The world’s largest freshwater wetland is located mostly in Brazil but also stretches into Bolivia and Paraguay. It is roughly ten times the size of the Everglades and is considered one of the best places to travel for viewing wildlife, especially from July- September. This destination is called Pantanal Matogrossense National Park and it is home to many endemic species including 200 species of mammals, 480 reptile species, 400 species of fish, 650 species of birds, and thousands of species of invertebrates. Some commonly seen animals in the park are tapirs, capybaras, ocelots, swamp deer, armadillos, alligators, river otters, giant ant eaters, maned wolves and jaguars. Birds who reside in or visit the area include cormorants, egrets, herons, toucans, hyacinth macaws, ibis, storks and roseate spoonbills. We are extremely fortunate to be able to see some of these birds throughout South Florida as well! Wildlife residency depends on time of year due to heavy flooding throughout the rainy season. Transportation to and around the area is accomplished mostly in small planes or motor boats. During the dry season, four wheel drive vehicles are able to maneuver through some sections of the park. This wetland also contains over 3500 plant species, such as Amazonian rainforest plants, savanna plants, grasses, and even forest species in the higher altitudes.
This national park was established in 1981 and was designated a Ramsar Site of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention since 1993. Due to the strategic location of the park, it is extremely vulnerable to the advance of large scale agriculture (including pesticides), commercial fishing, cattle ranching (including sewage), water pollution (including waste from gold mining), as well as damage from dams and transport navigation. Hunting, poaching and smuggling of endangered species are also problems in this area. Many conservancy groups have partnered together to help protect this valuable ecosystem.