The World Land Trust (WLT) has a new partner – /Guyra Paraguay/. John Burton, CEO of the World Land Trust, visited Guyra in Paraguay in October 2004, to see the extent of deforestation in the* Atlantic Rainforest*. Here is his account of the journey:
*A visit to the Atlantic Rainforest*
On route home from Patagonia, I visited Paraguay, a short hop from Buenos Aires, to get a better understanding of the activities of Guyra, our new partner in Paraguay. I was able to squeeze in a dawn visit to the mudflats on the river that bounds Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay. Flocks of Buff-breasted Sandpipers occur here, and it is a major stopping off point for a large proportion of the world’s population as it migrates south to Argentina.
The Office of Guyra was a hive of activity, and I had the advantage of being shown around by Rob Clay – English by birth, but now firmly established in Paraguay. He was particularly pleased to point out the office library, which is often used by students and visitors – and a very large proportion of the books were donated to Guyra through the World Land Trust Books for Conservation programme, sponsored by the Natural History Book Service.
-The Atlantic Rainforest – increasingly fragmented-
One of the main purposes of my visit was to see the problems confronting *the Atlantic Rainforest* remnants in Paraguay. The Atlantic Rainforest extends the length of the Brazilian east coast and into Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay, but it has undergone severe deforestation – it *now covers a mere fraction of its former range*. In Paraguay, the Atlantic Rainforest is reduced to one large tract – San Rafael – and numerous increasingly scattered and fragmented small patches. Guyra make regular overflights in a light aeroplane to photograph the changes in the forest, and I was able to accompany them, and see the extent of the damage.
*The protected areas of forest were clearly visible from the air, with straight line demarcation – everything unprotected was being cleared, or already converted to agriculture. Felled trees could be seen, and fires were burning everywhere.* Fortunately our partners are part of a very effective consortium that is working to protect as much of the remaining Atlantic Rainforest as possible. But developing sustainable incomes is going to be difficult.
-A meeting point for wildlife-
We had a session thinking about this, and realised that Paraguay needs to offer eco tourists something special. It does not have any endemic birds – or any spectacular endemic mammals. But then we realised that the reason it does not have endemics, is that it is a meeting point for several major habitats – and those habitats all have species found nowhere else in the world, but occur in neighbouring countries as well as Paraguay. So *Paraguay’s unique selling point is that you can actually see a huge variety of wildlife in a relatively small country*. And some of the most spectacular wildlife is found in the Chaco and Pantanal grasslands*, which are also relatively unexplored. And *because grasslands are every bit as threatened as topical rainforests, it is in these areas that we think we should looking for new reserves*.