Friday, December 18, 2015
Monday, December 14, 2015
UTUQUIS NATIONAL PARK, BOLIVIAN PANTANAL WETLANDS
Situated on the border of Brazil/ Paraguay is the spectacular Bolivian Pantanal or Utuquis National Park. This park makes up part of the world’s largest Wetland system and is home to a staggering amount of wildlife, the park itself covers over 1,005,950 hectares and due to its remoteness remains in near pristine condition.
Wildlife in this area is incredible and the potential for tourism is great, to date 59 species of mammals have been recorded, these include healthy populations of the Jaguar, Puma, Ocelots, Maned Wolves, Capybara, Giant Otters, Giant Anteaters, Brocket Deer, Howler Monkeys, Marsh Deer, Peccaries and much more, This park is one of the best areas in the world to observe and photograph the Marsh Deer, which often is found feeding close to the road and along with the Capybara which is the world’s largest rodent they are the easiest of the mammals inside the Park to see.
While the Jaguar is relatively abundant it’s sadly often shot on sight by Cattle Ranchers, its scat and tracks can be seen with some frequency and the lucky few can get a glimpse of this 100kg plus feline often sleeping by river banks or stalking its favourite prey items the Capybara and Spectacled Caiman by the road inside the Park at night.
Reptiles in this region include literally millions spectacled Caimans which are one of the great sights of the Pantanal, they can be seen basking in groups of hundreds along the banks close to the road and on riverbeds, the unique and rarely seen Caiman Lizard is also a huge highlight for nature lovers, it resembles more of a caiman than a lizard and its endemic to the Pantanal.
Of all the animals in the park the Yellow Anaconda is one of the most iconic, growing up to 4 metres this strikingly beautiful snake is often found here basking on the road or at night by the marshes while it stalks its prey, this is one of the very best places in the world to observe and marvel at this incredible snake.
If you are a nature lover or birder than this park presents spectacular birding which will rival anywhere else in the world, flocks of literally thousands of birds frequent the Pantanal and congregate around the lagoons feeding on the newly arrived fish, June through to October is the best time to visit the Pantanal to see this, Iconic bird species include the Jabiru, White Browned Blackbird, Cocoi Heron, Touca Toucan and the endemic parakeet of the region called the Nanday Parakeet.
THREATS TO THE PARK
Like most National Parks and protected areas in Bolivia adequate facilities and staff are limited which makes it impossible to properly protect the park, the major threats to the park include uncontrolled fires which many times are lit on purpose by the Cattle Ranchers who are based inside and outside the park , in the dry season thousands of hectares of forests and grassland are burnt and many animals perish as a result, most Jaguars, Pumas and other predators are also sadly shot on sight by the famers as well as they are a perceived threat to their cattle. Perhaps the biggest threat of the park is the new mine of Mutun which is just 50 km from the Park, this mine is one of the largest of its kind in the world and the main issue is the transportation of the minerals from the mine to though the park and onwards to Brazil, as we speak a major highway is being developed inside the Otuquis National Park which will see a major increase of traffic from the Mine inside the park and will severely threaten the wildlife and Park , road kills, increased pollution and more access to poachers will likely decimate the area.
TOURISM INSIDE THE BOLIVIAN PANTANAL
While the Bolivian side of the Pantanal lacks infrastructure, its potential for tourism is unlimited, not only is the Bolivian side more pristine than the Brazilian side , it’s also not over populated with tourists which makes wildlife viewing easier and more enjoyable. There are limited options to sleep and most people who visit sleep in tents or lodges on other parts of the Pantanal, to date only a few Tour Operators operate in this region and the most reliable is Nicks Adventures Bolivia who specialises in quality wildlife tours, they offer multi day tour packages to the Bolivian Pantanal which are aimed towards nature lovers who wish to film and photograph the keys species in the area, they offer 4WD trips through the Pantanal, fishing, and boating trips to remote river systems in the Bolivian Pantanal and beyond. Their WEBSITE is www.nicksadventuresbolivia.com