A new era of cross-border cooperation is primed to save Earth’s largest tropical wetland, home to the world’s densest concentration of jaguars. Assuming shared responsibility, Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay have committed to a far-reaching conservation initiative for the 42-million-acre transboundary Pantanal. It’s a joint strategy designed to balance the needs of wildlife and people, while protecting fragile natural resources—including more than 4,700 animal and plant species.
During the rainy season, the spongy Pantanal floodplain is saturated with fresh water, which then releases water throughout the long dry season—natural benefits valued at $112 billion a year. But the Pantanal’s delicate ecological balance faces pressure from the expansion of soybean and cattle operations that increase deforestation. The 101 dams proposed for the Upper Paraguay River Basin will disrupt free-flowing rivers and aquifer recharge in the Pantanal as well as in the planet’s fifth-largest river basin, the Rio de la Plata. Parlaying its expertise and influence, WWF has worked from the local to highest levels and across sectors for two decades to boost scientific research and create sustainable resource development plans for the Pantanal. Strong watershed management will pay off for humans and wildlife alike. More than 270 communities dwell inside the Pantanal, and another 2 million plus people depend upon the ecosystem for food, shelter, clean water and other uses. The world’s largest parrots—hyacinth macaws—frequent the forest, and 10 million caimans prowl the waterways. This new tri-national collaboration gives all the Pantanal’s inhabitants a healthier, more secure prospect for the future.