Photos: Development threatens earth’s largest wetlands in Latin America

The Pantanal is the largest wetland on the planet located in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay, spanning across 65,600 square miles of area. It is home to more than 4,000 species of plants and animals. But with industrialized agriculture encroaching deeper and deeper into former wilderness, that fragile water network nestled between Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia is now under serious threat.

UPDATED ON MAR 17, 2018 07:22 PM IST 8 Photos
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An aerial view of grazing cattle at the Pantanal wetlands in Mato Grosso state, Brazil. The Pantanal is the largest wetland on the planet located in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay spanning across 65,600 square miles of area and is home to more than 4,000 species of plants and animals. But with industrialized agriculture encroaching deeper and deeper into former wilderness, that fragile water network nestled between Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia is now under serious threat. (Carl De Souza / AFP)

An aerial view of grazing cattle at the Pantanal wetlands in Mato Grosso state, Brazil. The Pantanal is the largest wetland on the planet located in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay spanning across 65,600 square miles of area and is home to more than 4,000 species of plants and animals. But with industrialized agriculture encroaching deeper and deeper into former wilderness, that fragile water network nestled between Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia is now under serious threat. (Carl De Souza / AFP)

UPDATED ON MAR 17, 2018 07:22 PM IST
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The Pantanal enjoys many legal protections and about 82% is untouched but in the area where water rises, 55 % of the territory has suffered deforestation. “This region is at risk and if nothing is done to change this, we’ll start seeing the collapse of the Pantanal during the coming years,” said Julio Cesar Sampaio, WWF’s coordinator for the Cerrado-Pantanal. (Carl De Souza / AFP)

The Pantanal enjoys many legal protections and about 82% is untouched but in the area where water rises, 55 % of the territory has suffered deforestation. “This region is at risk and if nothing is done to change this, we’ll start seeing the collapse of the Pantanal during the coming years,” said Julio Cesar Sampaio, WWF’s coordinator for the Cerrado-Pantanal. (Carl De Souza / AFP)

UPDATED ON MAR 17, 2018 07:22 PM IST
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A group of tourists on a boat visit the Pantanal wetlands in Brazil. On the Pantanal, life is governed by the coming and going of dry and rainy seasons. At peak flooding, the Pantanal is a spectacular place for fishing and adventurous tourists. (Carl De Souza / AFP)

A group of tourists on a boat visit the Pantanal wetlands in Brazil. On the Pantanal, life is governed by the coming and going of dry and rainy seasons. At peak flooding, the Pantanal is a spectacular place for fishing and adventurous tourists. (Carl De Souza / AFP)

UPDATED ON MAR 17, 2018 07:22 PM IST
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A black-collared hawk (Busarellus nigricollis) is pictured in flight at the Pantanal wetlands. Some of the Pantanal’s most lively inhabitants include jaguars, giant anteaters, piranha, howler and capuchin monkeys, and green anacondas—the world’s largest snakes, which prowl swamps and lazy rivers in search of wild pigs, deer, and other prey. (Carl De Souza / AFP)

A black-collared hawk (Busarellus nigricollis) is pictured in flight at the Pantanal wetlands. Some of the Pantanal’s most lively inhabitants include jaguars, giant anteaters, piranha, howler and capuchin monkeys, and green anacondas—the world’s largest snakes, which prowl swamps and lazy rivers in search of wild pigs, deer, and other prey. (Carl De Souza / AFP)

UPDATED ON MAR 17, 2018 07:22 PM IST
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An aerial view of mining activity at the Pantanal wetlands. The region also plays an important role in controlling the climate, says Sergio Freitas, who studies the region at the University of Brasilia. “The surface functions as a big mirror made of water, reflecting part of the heat back and making the climate more agreeable,” he said. (Carl De Souza / AFP)

An aerial view of mining activity at the Pantanal wetlands. The region also plays an important role in controlling the climate, says Sergio Freitas, who studies the region at the University of Brasilia. “The surface functions as a big mirror made of water, reflecting part of the heat back and making the climate more agreeable,” he said. (Carl De Souza / AFP)

UPDATED ON MAR 17, 2018 07:22 PM IST
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A family of Capybaras (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) is pictured at the wetlands. (Carl De Souza / AFP)

A family of Capybaras (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) is pictured at the wetlands. (Carl De Souza / AFP)

UPDATED ON MAR 17, 2018 07:22 PM IST
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View of an area covered by Lily pads (Nymphaeaceae) at the Pantanal wetlands. (Carl De Souza / AFP)

View of an area covered by Lily pads (Nymphaeaceae) at the Pantanal wetlands. (Carl De Souza / AFP)

UPDATED ON MAR 17, 2018 07:22 PM IST
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A fisherman prepares his fishing reel at the wetlands in Mato Grosso state, Brazil. Local cowboys, called “pantaneiros,” move their herds in rhythm with the movement of the floods. Freitas said ranchers have had a presence for more than 200 years without causing undue impact. The problem was the arrival in recent decades of intensive agriculture, reducing the topsoil and muddying the streams. (Carl De Souza / AFP)

A fisherman prepares his fishing reel at the wetlands in Mato Grosso state, Brazil. Local cowboys, called “pantaneiros,” move their herds in rhythm with the movement of the floods. Freitas said ranchers have had a presence for more than 200 years without causing undue impact. The problem was the arrival in recent decades of intensive agriculture, reducing the topsoil and muddying the streams. (Carl De Souza / AFP)

UPDATED ON MAR 17, 2018 07:22 PM IST

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