The Pantanal, which spans 66,100 square miles, is the largest wetland in the world. To put it in perspective, it is ten times bigger than the United States Everglades. Its name comes from the Portuguese word Pantano, meaning wetland or marsh. This vast wetland stretches across Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay, with its main area located in Mato Grosso in western central Brazil. The Pantanal serves as the source of two important river systems in the region: the Paraguay and Cuiaba rivers. During winter, around 80 percent of the Pantanal becomes flooded. Interestingly, studies show that this area was once a sandy desert between 13,000 and 20,000 years ago. Today, it boasts flowing rivers and incredibly diverse wetlands teeming with fascinating wildlife.
The annual rainfall in the Pantanal is an average of 39 to 55 inches or 1,000 to 1,400 mm. The average temperature is 79 degrees Fahrenheit or 26 degrees Celcius. When you visit, you need to know the fluctuation in temperatures can vary from 56 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit or 25 to 45 degrees Celcius. Especially from mid-September the temperatures start to get above 95 fahrenheit or 35 degrees Celcius.
The Pantanal is teeming with life. This includes approximately:
656 species of birds 159 mammal species 3,500 species of plants 53 amphibian species 325 fish species and 98 species of reptiles.
You will find a greater density of jaguars in the Northern Pantanal than anywhere else in the world. It offers you an exceptional opportunity for spotting and photographing jaguars. The best time to visit for wildlife, birds and the jaguar is during the dry season (mid-May till November). When you take a Pantanal safari, you may see some of the iconic species (click the below links for detailed information about the species):
Eco-tourism plays a vital role in the conservation of the Pantanal wetland and empowering local communities.
Due to the rise of eco-tourism within the region more awareness and effort is put in place to protect this unique ecosystem and the abundance of wildlife.
The biggest threats are cattle ranching, deforestation, gold mining, fishing and pollution. Luckily slowly more locals start to understand the opportunities to change from cattle and fishing to tourism, which contributes to the protection of the area and species like the jaguar. However much work is to be done and illegal fishing, hunting and polluting are still present this day.
Organisations like Panthera conduct research in the Pantanal and have multiple conservation projects in place. Besides conservation they have an educational program for local children since education is the key to future change.