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Preserving a Paraguayan paradise.

Deforestation, the advance of mechanized farming and lumbering are threatening the lairs of the jaguar, the tapir, the peccary and the giant armadillo in the humid semi-tropical forests of Paraguay. These forests are also home to more than 19 natural plant communities and rare birds such as the king vulture, the bare-throated bellbird and the large macaw.

To protect these animals from extinction, the Moises Bertoni Foundation, a private group, is collaborating with the Nature Conservancy and the government of Paraguay to create a reserve in the 175,000-acre Mbaracayu region. A virgin forest of rich biodiversity, the Mbaracayu is the largest single tract of essentially undisturbed forestland remaining in eastern Paraguay.

The eastern region of Paraguay between the Paraguay and the Parana Rivers was once covered with rich, humid semi-tropical forests. With the expansion of lumbering and farming activities, however, the forests are rapidly receding. At current rates of deforestation, virtually all of eastern Paraguay is expected to be stripped of its forestry cover by the year 2005.

The Mbaracayu reserve forms part of the 692,000-acre Jejui watershed. It is inhabited by the Ache, an indigenous tribe of hunters and gatherers who depend upon the forest for their livelihood and who were only recently brought into contact with the outside world. Constituting the core area within the watershed, the nature reserve is designed to preserve the biodiversity of its rare animal and plant species. The future addition of some 32,000 acres could increase the are of the reserve to 175,000 acres, one fourth the total acreage of the watershed.

The buffer area surrounding the nature reserve would be developed in subsequent stages. Biologically significant areas would be identified for incorporation into the reserve and income-producing activities would be promoted among the Ache and Guarani Indian tribes around the reserve.

The Mbaracayu is probably the most significant remaining example of the Alto Parana-type forest and includes specimens found in the now largely destroyed Mata Atlantica formation in Brazil. Some of these specimens could be important sources of germ plasma for the ecological restoration of the natural forest on degraded lands.
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Title Annotation:!Ojo!; Paraguayan forest
Author:Goethals, Henry
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Article Type:column
Date:Sep 1, 1990
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