Projeto Tamanduá in the Pantanal

My work in Brazil focuses on invasive species on islands, but to see a different side of conservation I have joined the Projeto Tamanduá 2017 course in the Pantanal. The Pantanal is the largest wetland in the world with the highest concentration of species in the Americas. There are an estimated 1,000 bird, 400 fish and 300 mammal species. At the same time, it is the rarest and most threatened biome in Brazil. In contrast to islands, its major threats are land clearance and freshwater protection.

The Pantanal is the world's largest wetland
The Pantanal is the world’s largest wetland (Photo by James Russell)

The Projeto Tamanduá has been working here for 12 years studying the biology, ecology and conservation of anteaters. Each year they run a field course at Pousada Aguapé to train Brazilian students in the ecology of the region. The class contains a mixture of theoretical seminars, and practical field training, amongst the rich diversity of the Pantanal. Outside the classroom a yellow armadillo forages around furtively as we learn.

A yellow armadillo wonders what you're learning about him
A yellow armadillo wonders what you’re learning about him (Photo by James Russell)

The Wildlife Conservation Society has a Brazilian office, and its staff join us on the first day of the course to give a wider context to conservation in the Pantanal. Importantly, they highlight that as well as the known threats, invasive species are literally on the radar in the Pantanal. Feral pigs are spreading throughout Brazil and through a variety of potential mechanisms threaten the native peccaries. As far away as we are from the islands of the Atlantic, or even the Amazon, it is clear that invasive species are a national threat in every part of Brazil.

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