Community involvement and tourism as conservation aids in Paraguay (and a long list of birds!) SEARCH NEWS

Teenagers from the Eco Club singing by the campfire

Guest blog by WLT’s web manager, Helena Akerlund, who spent some time in Paraguay last year volunteering with Guyra Paraguay.

John will shortly return from a World Land Trust staff and supporter trip to Paraguay and will no doubt report on the journey here in Green Issues, perhaps including an account of having finally seen in the wild that most elusive of animals: The jaguar. I hope so, but if he still hasn’t been lucky enough to spot one, let’s hope none of the first-time visitors in the group did when John was looking the other way, or there will be no end to his grumbles!

In the meantime I thought I’d squeeze in the last and long overdue account of my visit to Paraguay – now a distant six months ago.

Teenagers from the Eco Club singing by the campfire

“Los Exploradores” performing a song they had written themselves, complete with synchronised arm movements, which not everybody had mastered!

The Eco Club: Ensuring the future of the Pantanal is in safe hands

The Three Giants Lodge, the visitor facility at the Chaco-Pantanal Reserve in the north of Paraguay, was brand new when I was there, so our visit coincided with a dinner celebrating its opening. The local Eco Club and rangers attended and Guyra staff gave thanks to all who had helped realise the vision. (The work on the lodge is now completed and John and the others took part in its official grand opening last week.)

The Eco Club members are children and teenagers from the nearby community Bahía Negra, who, thanks to Guyra’s involvement, are learning about reserve management and species identification. The idea is that responsibility for the management of the Chaco-Pantanal Reserve will soon lie completely with the local community, without the need for Guyra staff to travel quite so often between the capital and the reserve. For this to be achieved long-term it’s essential to involve the younger generation. (Find out how you can support Guyra’s community work in Bahía Negra here.)

Generally speaking not many local children stay in Bahía Negra when they grow up – there’s simply not much there for them to do, and being located in a really isolated part of the country, the temptation to move south to the cities is great. The Eco Club provides some of the training needed to equip future reserve staff with key skills for managing the reserve and visitor facilities.

Most of my time in Paraguay was spent in the company of only a few people, so it was great to be able to meet with all the children of the Eco Club (who were very keen to practice their English) and witness their apparently endless enthusiasm for the club and the reserve.

The location of the lodge in the Pantanal.

This image, taken from a plane by Pepe Cartes of Guyra Paraguay, shows just how isolated the Three Giants Lodge is. The lodge is the small white square on the riverside, and it’s completely surrounded by the vastness of the Pantanal wetland, forest and palm savannah.

Why visit Paraguay?

A few weeks ago I watched a TV programme about the (Brazilian) Pantanal and the giant otters living there. Seeing the floating lily leaves, the otters’ heads bobbing up and down in the water and hearing the call of a Great Kiskadee and grunting of herons and jabirus, I was transported right back to the Chaco-Pantanal Reserve. If it wasn’t for the distance and cost involved, I would not hesitate to make it my annual holiday destination!

The Pantanal is quite simply a fantastic place to go for a complete wilderness experience. The relatively high chance of seeing jaguars is a clear bonus! It’s a heaven for birdwatchers too – as is the rest of the country. As John pointed out in an earlier blog post about visiting Paraguay: “Paraguay is at the cross-roads of several very important biogeographical regions. This makes it a very good place to go and see a huge range of species.”

San Rafael, with its combination of forest and grassland, makes a perfect location for watching butterflies and birds – with the added bonus that it’s relatively close to cities and airports. With a track running through the reserve it also makes it a tad more accessible to visitors who may not want to walk for miles along narrow forest trails.

Going to Paraguay also makes for a great conversation starter! If I had a penny for every person who asked me “Why Paraguay?”… Well, why not? The wildlife, the people, the cheap cost of getting around – and the fact that there weren’t thousands of other tourists, made my trip thoroughly enjoyable.

For conservation projects to be successful in the long run, reducing the need for continuous donations and grants is an important factor. Tourism plays one part in the vision for making the Guyra reserves sustainable. This is a project still in its infancy, but I have no doubt that better facilities and services will be developed in the future, to make the reserves more attractive to the high-end of the market. (People like me, used to camping and bringing my own food to cut costs, just don’t bring in that much money!)

In the meantime, adventurous travellers can get the best of two worlds: Intimate contact with nature, whilst sleeping in a comfortable bed!

See also the previous blog posts about my stay in Paraguay and some wildlife videos I made whilst in Paraguay, which can be seen on WLT’s new multimedia website Wildlife Focus.

Jaguar in the Pantanal

Jaguar in the Brazilian Pantanal © Bill Markham

Jaguars in the Pantanal on TV

WLT supporter Bill Markham kindly informed us of a project he has been working on, recording a series about the Pantanal (in Brazil) for Channel Five. Entitled Jaguar Adventure, the series starts 8th April at 7.30pm and from the synopsis it looks like it could be very interesting:

“The Pantanal – the world’s biggest wetland, the size of Britain… and home to the planet’s largest population of Jaguars. These big cats are notoriously hard to find, let alone film. But when Tigress Productions heard of a location where they were being sighted regularly, Nigel Marven couldn’t wait to get there.”

Becoming a birder… (Birds in Paraguay)

I knew very little about birds before going to Paraguay – not because I wasn’t interested, but because I never had anyone to teach me, and always had a slight fear of binoculars (don’t ask). Now, on the other hand, I feel as if I know more about birds in South America than I do about European birds, and have also managed to identify some species here in the UK that were previously unknown to me, based on their similarities to their South American cousins.

This list is in no way complete. Although my knowledge improved exponentially, thanks to the help from Guyra staff and knowledgeable rangers, I have a notebook full of scribbles and questionmarks that I have am unable to add. Still, I hope it will give some sort of idea of the birds that can be seen in the Pantanal, Chaco and Atlantic Forest. (I will gradually edit the list to include links to the photos I took of some of these birds, so if you are interested in seeing these, check back in a couple of weeks.)

Latin nameEnglish name
Tapera naeviaStriped Cuckoo
Mita jaryiGreat Kiskadee
Colaptes campestrisField Flicker
Milvago chimachimaYellow-headed Caracara
Pseudoleistes guirahuroYellow-rumped Marshbird
Vanellus chilensisSouthern Lapwing
Tyrannus savanaFork-tailed Flycatcher
Coragyps atratusBlack Vulture
Progne chalybeaGray-breasted Martin
Falco sparveniusAmerican kestrel
Pardirallus nigricanusBlackish Rail
Buteogallus meridionalisSavannah Hawk
Barypthengus ruficapillusRoufus-capped Motmot
Synallaxis ruficapillaRoufus-capped Spinetail
Chlorostilbon aureoventrisGlittering-bellied Emerald
Hylocharis sapphirinaRoufus-throated Sapphire
Pionopsitta pileataRed-capped Parrot
Milvago chimangoChimango Caracara
Ceryle torquataRinged Kingfisher
Trogon surrucuraSurucura Trogon
Rhea americanaGreater Rhea
Rhynchotus rufescensRed-winged Tinamou
Nothura maculosaSpotted Nothura
Sturnella superciliarisWhite-browned Blackbird
Xanthopsar flavusSaffron-cowled Blackbird
Buteo albicaudatusWhite-tailed Hawk
Polystrictus pectoralisBearded tachuri
Ammodramus humeralisGrassland Sparrow
Glaucidium brasilianumFerruginous Pygmy Owl
Donacospiza albifonsLong-tailed Reed-finch
Coryphaspiza melanolisBlack-masked Finch
Elothoeptus anomalusSickle-winged Nightjar
Athene cuniculariaBurrowing Owl
Circus buffoniLong-winged Harrier
Pyrocephalus rubinusVermilion Flycatcher
Jacana jacanaWattled jacana
Phalacrocorax brasilicusNeotropical Cormorant
Anhinga anhingaAnhinga
Arunolinicola leucocephalaWhite-headed marsh-tyrant
Amblyramphus holosericeusScarlet-headed Blackbird
Stelgidopteryx ruficollisSouthern Rough-winged Swallow
Platalea ajajaRoseate Spoonbill
Himantopus melanurusSouth American Stilt
Asio clamatorStriped Owl
Busarellus nigricollisBlack-collared Hawk
Sorophilia collarisRushy-collared Seedeater
Hydropsalis torquataScissor-tailed Nightjar
Nyctibius griseusCommon Potoo
Otus cholibaTropical Screech-owl
Synalaxis albescensPale-breasted Spinetail
Gubernetes yetapaStreamer-tailed Tyrant
Geothlypis aequinoctialisMasked Yellow-throat
Agelaius cyanopusUnicoloured Blackbird
Elaenia flavogasterYellow-bellied Elaenia
Coryphospingus cucullatusRed-breasted Finch
Rynchops nigerBlack Skimmer
Phaetusa simplexLarge-billed Tern
Sterna superciliarisYellow-billed Tern
Caracara plancusSouthern Crested-caracara
Cranioleuca obsoletaOlive Spinetail
Sittasomus griseicapillusOlivaceous Woodcreeper
Cacicus chrysopterusGolden-winged cacique
Synallaxis albescensPale-breasted Spinetail
Cranioleuca obsoletaOlive Spinetail
Syndactyla rufosuperciliataBuff-browned Foliage-gleaner
Thamnophilus caerulescensVariable Antshrike
Caicus solitarisSolitary Black Cacique
Piaya cayanaSquirrel Cuckoo
Dromococcyx phasiarellusPheasant Cuckoo
Platyrinchus mystaceusWhite-throated Spadebill
Cyanocompsa brissoniiCyanocompsa brissonii
Tachycineta albiventerWhite-winged Swallow
Guira guitaGuira Cuckoo
Ardea albaGreat Egret
Ergetta thulaSnowy Egret
Botaurus pinnatusPinnated Bittern
Ardea cocoiWhite-necked Heron
Tigresoma lineatumRufescent Tiger-heron
Nycticorax nycticoraxBlack-crowned Night-heron
Mycteria americanaAmerican Woodstork
Ciconia maguariMaguari Stork
Jabiru mycteriaJabiru
Theristicus caerulescensPlumbeous Ibis
Phimosus infuscatusBare-faced Ibis
Dendrocygna autumnalisBlack-bellied Whistling-duck
Butorides striatusStriated heron
Calindris melanotosPectorial Sandpiper
Aramus juaraunaLimkin
Chloroceyle amazonaAmazon Kingfisher
Verniliornis passerinusLittle Woodpecker
Lepidocolaptes angustostrisNarrow-billed Woodcreeper
Melanerpes candidusWhite Woodpecker
Paroaria capilataYellow-billed Cardinal
Fluvicola albiventerBlack-backed Water-tyreant
Buteo gallusGreat Black-hawk
Picoides mixtusCheckered Woodpecker
Colaptes melanochlorosGreen-barred Woodpecker
Piculus chrysochlorosGolden-green Woodpecker
Ramphastos tocoToco Toucan
Heliomaster furiciferBlue-tufted Starthroat


(Many thanks to Pepe, Roberto, Rionaldo, Juan, Arne and Silvia for help with identification. Any errors in this list are entirely my own and most likely due to difficult to interpret handwriting and clumsy typing. Please do let me know if you spot any!)

Finally, a massive thank you to everybody at Guyra for having me, showing me around and making me speak Spanish (mostly), despite not being very good at it.

Our Appeals

Life on the Edge

With your help, we can reach our appeal target of £1,430,000 and double the amount of land protected by Anzu and Zúñac, connecting the reserves to a ...