Pantanal: South America's Wetland Jewel


176 pages
Contains Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55407-090-2
DDC 508.81'71





Photos by Theo Allofs
Reviewed by J.H. Galloway

J.H. Galloway is a professor of geography at the University of Toronto
and the author of The Sugar Cane Industry.


The theme of this book is wildlife preservation in a wetland region now
threatened by changing economic forces. The Pantanal is a vast
seasonally flooded wetland, half the size of California, lying in the
far west of Brazil along the borders of Bolivia and Paraguay. In a
relentless annual cycle, numerous broad and slow-flowing rivers flood
the land for half the year, confining men and animals to island refuges.
Months later the waters drain, exposing extensive pastures and wide,
muddy riverbanks and in turn confining fish and reptiles to much-reduced

Three of the book’s five chapters illustrate the different aspects of
this process. Chapter 1 looks at the people of the region and at the
cattle-raising economy that has evolved since colonial times. The final
chapter, “Caiman,” is devoted to the distinctive, small crocodilian
that lives here in extraordinary abundance now that it is effectively
protected from hunters.

People will buy Pantanal for the photographs, which are marvellous, but
not for the text, which is disappointingly brief. Missing from the book
is a scholarly analysis of the record of the human causes of
environmental change from indigenous times to the present, followed by
an analysis of the current economic threats and possibilities. The role
of ecotourism deserves more attention. Seven authors are listed as
having contributed to the text. It is a pity that the project’s
sponsoring organization, Conservation International, did not ask them
for or allow them more space.


Mittermeier, Russell A., et al., “Pantanal: South America's Wetland Jewel,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 19, 2024,