The Pantanal Matogrossense National Park is on the border between the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul, and also includes parts of Bolivia and Paraguay. Taking up 135 thousand of the 250 kilometres total area of the Pantanal region, this is the largest continuous expanse of floodplain in the world, and is home to an incredible diversity of plant and animal life.
It was for this and for other reasons that this region is considered by UNESCO to be World Natural Heritage and a Biosphere Reserve, as one of the most diverse ecosystems on the whole planet.
The area is flooded for five months
The Pantanal is essentially a flat area with very few hills and many depressions. The maximum altitude is never more than 200 metres above sea level.
During the rainy season, from October to February, it is almost impossible to travel around the region by land, as the land is totally soaked up. The waters of the Paraguay River and its tributaries burst their banks, taking over the landscape and allowing the maintenance of the incredible biodiversity of the region.
After this period, the local soil, which is sandy and clayey and hence not suitable for agricultural use, becomes excellent for cattle grazing in the areas that remain dry for the rest of the year – an activity which is only allowed outside the National Park itself.
Plant and Animal Life of the Brazilian Pantanal
So far, many species have been catalogued as being inhabitants of the Pantanal: 652 species of birds, 122 of mammals, 263 of fish, 480 of reptiles, and 1132 different species of butterflies.
Among the species found in the region that are now at risk of extinction are the impressive spotted panther which can reach a length of 2 metres and weigh 160 kilos; the marsh deer, an excellent swimmer with daytime habits; the giant blue macaw, one of the last still seen and the largest of its species with up to 1.40 metres; and the jaburu or cauauá, a migratory bird that is a symbol of the Pantanal and which measures as much as 1 metre in height.
Other famous residents of the area include the Brazilian giant otter, the capybara, the maned wolf, the anteater and the sloth, as well as several species of snakes, including the boa constrictor and the anaconda. The Pantanal area is also rich in fish, especially piranhas, pacus, Brazilian catfish and dorados, among others.
In terms of plant life, in the region we can find trees, plants and herbs, both those typical of the area as others coming from other parts of the country such as Amazonia, the Brazilian savanna (Cerrado), the Brazilian xeric shrubland biome (Caatinga), the Bolivian Chaco and the Atlantic Rainforest. The species of trees that are most common in the area include the trumpet tree, the fig tree and palm trees.