Paraguay is home to an extremely wide variety of wildlife relative to the country’s small size. This is due to country’s relatively small population and the presence of six distinct ecoregions. Vast and relatively uninhabited the Paraguayan Chaco, which includes the Dry Chaco, Humid Chaco, and Pantanal, boasts a number of rare and endangered species. Though Eastern Paraguay is home to the majority of the country’s human population, there is great biodiversity in the Cerrado, Atlantic Forest, and Mesopotamian grasslands.
Lone, fierce predators such as jaguars and puma still roam through the Chaco and some parts of Eastern Paraguay. Both are increasingly rare as they are much sought after by poachers and are also often shot by cattle ranchers. The Chaco is also home to the aptly named Chaco peccary, which looks like a small wild boar and, until 1976, was believed to be extinct. Giant river otters live exclusively in the Pantanal, making their homes by the water’s edge. Large and shaggy, the bushy tailed giant anteater ambles purposefully through the underbrush. Lowland tapirs look like stocky gray/brown pigs with curiously flexible snouts and can weigh up to a quarter ton. Juvenile tapirs have striped and spotted coats and are impossibly cute. Paraguay is home to eleven species of armadillo (see Tatus of the Chaco) including the large and endangered giant armadillo. South America’s largest deer, the marsh deer, is found in the Pantanal as well. Its reddish brown hue tends to contrast with the surrounding vegetation. Weighing up to 140 pounds, capybaras, the world’s largest rodents, are found living in waterways throughout the country. These fat bottomed rodents are often hunted for their meat. Another curious animal is the maned wolf, a long legged fox distinctive for its lopping gait and strong skunky smell. There are also five species of monkeys: the capuchin, titi, electric, howler, and night monkey. Paraguay also hosts a large reptile population, which can be seen slithering and swimming across aquatic and terrestrial habitats. The most well known and easily spotted is the caiman (which looks like a small crocodile), known commonly as the yacare. Other reptiles include various species of pit vipers and rattlesnakes. The Chaco’s flat landscape and dusty roads are ideal for spotting tortoises (one species is said to be a preferred food of Ayoreo still living in voluntary isolation). Among the larger fish are the suruM and dorado, both of which are popular catches with fishermen (see Fishing). Also of interest to nature lovers is Paraguay’s amphibian population, which boasts some seventy-six species. Toads, known in Guaram as kururu, can be seen hopping throughout the countryside, each larger than the next. Locals claim that the kururu will squirt toxic milk into the eyes of those brave enough to approach it. There are also several species of frogs including the coralline frog with black and red mottled spots on a cream-colored body and the cartoonish Budgett’s frog with a puffy body and small beady eyes.
Sidebar: For footage of Paraguay’s wildlife, check out Paraguay Salvaje. This television show can be seen Saturdays at 12:30 on the LaTele channel but several videos are also available online (www.paraguay-salvaje.com and on Facebook).
Birdlife, in particular, is very abundant. With its black head, red throat and white body the jabiru stork, one of South America’s largest birds, is easily spotted soaring through the sky in the Chaco and the Pantanal. Curiously pink flamingos and spoonbills can be seen rooting around for food in the
Chaco’s lagoons. Toucans are present throughout the country as well as parakeets, rheas (which look like ostriches), herons and egrets. In addition, Paraguay has several sites that are popular rest spots for migratory birds heading both north and south (see Birding).
Sidebar: Sneaky Crocodiles – Jacare is the Guaram word for caiman. Jacare has another more mischievous meaning. In general, it can be used to imply doing something in a secretive manner, but more specifically, a jacare is a man who sneaks into his girlfriend or mistress’ bedroom window.
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