| ||The “Pantanal” (which means “swamp” in Portuguese) covers 54.000 mi2 (139.860 km2) and is one of the largest wetlands on the planet. It stretches over a large part of southwest of Brazil to Bolivia and Paraguay. In the dry season, thousands of head of cattle take advantage of these grassy prairies and leave deep black furrows in the ground along their way. But these natural pastures are ephemeral. From November to March, they are flooded by the waters of the Paraguay River and its tributaries. The cattle then fall back on a few unsinkable islets and surrender their place to a rich avifauna (650 species) that feeds on 250 species of fish. This authentic Noah’s Ark, whose biodiversity is comparable to that of Amazonia, is also the domain of jaguars, caimans, tapirs and giant otters. But over exploitation threatens this fragile ecosystem, which was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000. If on one hand the wetlands are relatively protected, on the other its margins have been clear-cut and turned into agricultural land and pasture. The Pantanal might also be negatively affected by changes in the Paraguay River that will be navigable for big boats, from the Prata River until Bolivia.
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