A Ginat Anteater at sunset in Barba Azul Reserve


Years of support 0

HECTARES FUNDED 0 (67,489 acres)

HECTARES CO-FUNDED 0 (7,880 acres)

Trees planted 0


Bordered by Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil, landlocked Paraguay is located almost at the very centre of South America at the convergence of four of the continent’s bioregions.

Running from north to south, the River Paraguay roughly divides the country into two distinct geographic regions—the western arid lowland Chaco or Occidental region comprising 61% of the country, and the eastern, humid upland Paraneña or Orient, where the vast majority of the country’s population lives.

The Paraguayan Chaco, Paraguay’s largest bioregion, comprises 23% of the vast Gran Chaco—South America’s second-largest forest—extending for 1,066,000 km² (411,585 square miles) across the lowlands of northern Argentina, western Paraguay, southern Bolivia and into Brazil. The Paraguayan Chaco is divided into two ecoregions—the Dry Chaco in the north-west dominated by scrubby xeromorphic forests adapted to very irregular rainfall, and the Humid Chaco, a mosaic of dry forests, palm savannahs and seasonally flooded wetlands.


Along the north-east border with Brazil, the Chaco transitions into the flooded grasslands and wetlands of the Pantanal, while in the east of the country, the Chaco gives way to two of the world’s biodiversity hotspots—the Atlantic Forest and Cerrado savannah.

Paraguay’s rich biodiversity includes 395 fish species, 88 amphibians, 135 reptiles, and 688 bird species, including Crowned Solitary Eagle (Endangered) and Bare-faced Curassow (Vulnerable). The 181 mammal species recorded include the threatened Chacoan Peccary (Endangered)—thought extinct until the first live individuals were sighted in 1970—as well as Lowland Tapir, Marsh Deer and Southern Tiger Cat (Vulnerable), and nine species of armadillos, including the rare Giant Armadillo (Vulnerable).

The Paraguayan Chaco has one of the highest deforestation rates in the entire Gran Chaco, with 50% of the forest predicted to be lost to cattle ranching and soy production by 2030. Wildfires are another major threat, destroying vast areas in the Chaco and the Pantanal in recent years, and poaching remains a significant threat to the country’s biodiversity. WLT has supported partner Guyra Paraguay since 2005 with forest protection in the Pantanal, Atlantic Forest and Dry Chaco.



Current projects in Paraguay

Chaco Corridors

South America’s Gran Chaco has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, with around 20% of this vast dry forest cleared since 1985. With one of the highest rates of deforestation in all the Gran Chaco, the Paraguayan Chaco lost 2.4 million ha (5.9 million acres) between 2010 and 2019, mainly due to the expansion of cattle pasture in Paraguay’s Dry Chaco.

Located in northern Paraguay, the Cerro Chovoreca Natural Monument is a protected area covering 100,000 ha (247,105 acres) of Dry Chaco, home to the Jaguar and threatened species such as Lowland Tapir and Giant Anteater (Vulnerable) as well as Crowned Eagle and Chacoan Peccary (Endangered).

Although landowners in the Cerro Chovoreca Natural Monument are legally required to retain forest on at least 25% of their land, these areas are maintained as timber reserves, degraded from timber extraction, and are unconnected, offering poor protection for biodiversity. With WLT support, Guyra Paraguay is working to increase the land’s legal protection by changing the status of Cerro Chovoreca National Monument to a National Park. WLT and Guyra are also creating forest corridors between protected areas, which will be managed with landowners to maximise forest connectivity and wildlife protection.

Giant Anteater in the Bolivian Chaco
A Giant Otter swimming

WLT began its partnership with Guyra Paraguay in 2004 and funded the Chaco-Pantanal Reserve in 2006, which protects 14,600 ha (36,077 acres) of the Paraguayan Pantanal—part of the world’s largest tropical wetland—safeguarding habitat along the Río Negro and forming a larger cross-border protected area with the Otuquis National Park in Bolivia. In 2008, WLT Council Member Kevin Cox funded the creation of the Three Giants Biological Station, which now serves as the base for the reserve’s rangers and researchers.

Situated in the transition zone between the Pantanal and Dry Chaco, the Chaco-Pantanal Reserve includes wetlands, tropical semi-deciduous forest, tropical deciduous forest, tropical semi-evergreen forest, shrubland, savannah, and riparian forests. Home to a rich biodiversity, 46 species of mammals are found here, including the iconic Jaguar, and threatened species such as Giant River Otter (Endangered), Giant Anteater, Lowland Tapir and Marsh Deer (Vulnerable), as well as 291 bird species, 33 reptile species, 19 species of amphibians, and 140 species of fishes.

Wildfires are the biggest threat here, damaging 60% of the reserve in 2019. WLT is funding four local rangers over three years to monitor biodiversity and safeguard against wildfires, illegal grazing and poaching.

San Rafael Endowment Fund

Situated in south-east Paraguay, San Rafael is a region in the Alto Paraná Atlantic Forest—the westernmost area of the Atlantic Forest world biodiversity hotspot—extending across western Brazil, eastern Paraguay and north-eastern Argentina.

Owned by WLT partner Guyra Paraguay, the 7,000 ha (17,297 acre) Guyra Reta Reserve includes humid subtropical semi-deciduous forest, natural grasslands, and areas previously cleared for agriculture. A total of 505 species of birds occur here, including the threatened Saffron-cowled Blackbird (Endangered) and Cock-tailed Tyrant (Vulnerable), as well as 45 mammal species such as Southern Tiger Cat and Lowland Tapir (Vulnerable), Puma, and 45 species of reptiles, 33 amphibians, and 3,000 plant species.

The Guyra Reta Reserve is also home to campesino farmers and the indigenous Mby’a Guaraní people. Both depend on the forest, but extreme poverty and lack of access to alternative livelihoods have driven unsustainable exploitation of resources and encroachment into the reserve for illegal marijuana plots, timber cutting, poaching, and charcoal production. The San Rafael Endowment Fund allows Guyra Paraguay to employ local rangers to patrol the reserve and to work with local communities to combat fires and create sustainable incomes, such as producing forest-grown yerba mate tea.

Grasslands and forest edge at San Rafael

Paraguay Forest Conservation Project


The Paraguay Forest Conservation Project has two components in different threatened habitats, aiming to protect sufficient forest threatened with clearance to prevent the emission of approximately 220,000 tonnes of CO2e into the atmosphere over a 20 year period.

The conservation actions here are REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), conserving forest where it is highly threatened by clearance and thus avoiding the release of carbon. This has allowed WLT to finance the programme through carbon the Carbon Balanced Programme.

This project has been certified under a world-leading set of standards for carbon offsetting, the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Standard, to Gold level for its exceptional benefits.

  • The Paraguay Forest Conservation Project at La Amistad, San Rafael, will enable the La Amistad community members to improve their farming systems and general well-being and safeguard the forest under their control. In the absence of the project, community members will have no choice but to remove further forest on their land, resulting in the release of stored carbon. Our Project Design Document, submitted for third-party validation to the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA), sets out in detail how the project will proceed. We summarise the key points below.

    Biodiversity value

    The forests at San Rafael form part of the once-vast Atlantic Rainforest, now the world’s most critically threatened biodiversity hotspot. The Atlantic Rainforest biome stretches across four South American countries, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay. Overall it supports some 20,000 plant species of which 40 percent are found nowhere else on Earth. 950 species of bird are also found here, including numerous endemic species and many that are Critically Endangered. 93% of the forest is already lost and the remainder is under great pressure.

    The Atlantic Forest once covered the entire eastern region of Paraguay but is now largely reduced to tiny fragments. The forest of San Rafael is, at 70,000 ha, one of the largest patches remaining and is of outstanding biodiversity importance. It is largely comprised of moist, semi-evergreen ‘Upper Parana’ Forest, further diversified by a mosaic of natural grasslands (outliers of the Pampas) on its western edge.

    The San Rafael Important Bird Area (IBA) was identified in 1997 as only the second IBA in Latin America. It is the most important site for threatened and endemic Atlantic Forest birds in Paraguay. 26 bird species are of conservation concern, along with 27 mammal and 71 plant species. Birds include Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja) (NT), White-eared Puffbird (Nystalus chacuru) (LC), Bare-throated Bell-bird (Procnias nudicollis) (VU), and Black-fronted Piping-guan (Pipile Jacutinga) (EN).

    95% of the San Rafael IBA remains in its natural state. Of this, 91% is semi-evergreen lowland tropical forest, 3% is savanna, and 1% is scrub. The remaining 5% is used for agriculture. San Rafael still has no secure protected status and suffers from widespread illicit timber extraction and patchy clearance.

    Community benefits

    The project concentrates on the campesino community of La Amistad, resettled under the national Agrarian Reform programme, on a strip of 1182 ha penetrating into the heart of the forest. Approximately half of the land held by La Amistad small-holder community members remains forested. However, the opportunity-costs to community members of retaining forest cover are presently high, because they do not derive benefits from standing forest commensurate to those they would gain from alternative land-uses.

    Given that the La Amistad community welfare is compromised by low incomes, the incentive to clear additional forest is extremely strong. This project thus aims to reward the community for the Ecosystem Services their forest areas provide, and to facilitate improvements to farmed areas so as to enhance incomes.

    Individual participation is entirely voluntary, with community members opting to contribute forest parcels to the community forest reserve, in exchange for payments that are attractive when set against prevailing prices for cotton, the dominant export crop for the community. The payment level is such as to be attractive when 75% is paid to the individual and the remaining 25% used to secure the participant’s title to his land.

    An agricultural extension service will be provided to assist community members to adopt farming practices that enhance yields on already-converted land in a sustainable way, thus increasing farm stability and income and reducing the incentive to expand cultivated areas.

    CCBA certification

    During 2010, the La Amistad project at San Rafael was submitted by the WLT to the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) for independent third-party verification of its community, carbon and biodiversity effectiveness and benefits. In October 2010, the project was certified by CCBA, and deemed to achieve a ‘Gold’ rating reflecting the substantial biodiversity co-benefits of the project.


    CCBA verification

    Social and biodiversity monitoring plans have been produced to monitor the social and biodiversity impacts of the Paraguayan Forest Conservation REDD+ Project implemented in San Rafael.

    Verification documents


  • Social and biodiversity monitoring plans have been produced to monitor the social and biodiversity impacts of the Paraguayan Forest Conservation REDD+ Project implemented in the Chaco Pantanal. This project is carried out with the support of Swire Pacific Offshore a leading service provider to the offshore oil and gas industry based in Singapore.

    Verification Documents


Key species protected by WLT projects


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