In Brazil, Mapping a New Park Amid Border Disputes

July 28, 2003

Holding a GPS navigation device in one hand and paperwork in the other, Adilio Miranda climbs into a clattering helicopter. The pilot quickly lifts off for a journey into the wilds of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul in southwestern Brazil.

Minutes later, they're hovering above an area of the Serra da Bodoquena region known as the Pantanal, the swamp, for its annual flooding. The Pantanal, roughly the size of the state of Kansas, is the world's largest wetland.

Below stretch unspoiled rivers and patches of forest. Miranda, a Brazilian physician turned conservationist, motions the pilot to a hillside where he'll alight and begin the day's task of gathering coordinates.

For much of the past year, Miranda has been carving out a new national park: Parque Nacional da Serra da Bodoquena. Miranda is the park's director, appointed by IBAMA, Brazil's environmental agency.

"It's not every day you get a chance to create a new national park in one of the world's richest wildlife areas," Miranda says at headquarters in Bonito.

The Pantanal is also endangered by mining, excessive land-clearing, and poaching of jaguars and rare birds, reports the Earthwatch Institute in Maynard, Massachusetts. Big-scale farmers or cattle breeders often clear-cut huge tracts of land with slash-and-burn techniques.

The new park, established by presidential decree three years ago, answers a need for conservation areas.

Threatened Forests and Animals Need Protection

The parklands are home to some of the last remaining stretches of the species-abundant Atlantic rain forest and many creatures on the "threatened" list like the giant otter, Brazilian jaguar and harpy eagle.

The park's rivers, like the Rio Salobra in the north and the Rio Perdido in the south, teem with aquatic life. A report from the World Wildlife Fund-Brazil identifies 264 species of fish in the Pantanal.

"We're very excited about our studies going on in the park," Miranda says. "We have a chance to find and document new species of wildlife—as well as learning how best to protect the known species."

But the effort to create the park still faces opposition. And preliminary environmental studies need to be completed, too.

Continued on Next Page >>


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