Pantanal on an Earthwatch Expedition

I traveled to the Pantanal in Brazil as a volunteer with Earthwatch. There I participated in field research and observed a wide variety of animals.

Pantanal on an Earthwatch Expedition

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Norman on November 7, 2006

The Pantanal is the world’s largest wetland wilderness, south of the Equator in Brazil’s southern inland area, near the Bolivian and Paraguay border. The area is known for its diverse population of animals which is quite visible during the dry season, June to November. During the wet season approximately 80% of the area is flooded.

The Pantanal is home to over 3.000 species of plants and well over 1,000 species of animals. The climate is warm in the summer and moderate in the winter. During my stay I experienced temperatures climbing briefly to 90 degrees F. in the afternoon, but quickly dropping in the evening with lows around 60 degrees F.

During my 2 week stay I saw many animals. To name a few: caimans, capybaras, anteaters, macaws, toucans, peccaries, bats, crab eating foxes, deer, and numerous birds. A highpoint of the trip was seeing the giant river otters swimming and playing.

To join the peccary expedition see:
I participated in a Conservation Research Initiative through Earthwatch,

I participated in research studies of the aquatic environment, caimans, peccaries, and bats. I was part of a 10 person team from the U.S. and England.

For more information on the Pantanal Wikipedia

${QuickSuggestions} On an international flight through Sao Paulo, give yourself an extended time for connecting flights. The lines were long and slow at immigration and customs, and I had to check in again at the Tam Airlines desk arriving and departing.${BestWay} I flew from Miami to Sao Paulo, then onto Campo Grande. There our team assembled and stayed overnight. Early the next morning we flew in a 6 seat airplane to the Pantanal, specifically Pousada Arauna, a wonderful lodge and research facility. There we worked, with some relaxation, for 12 days.

Pousada Ararauna

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Norman on November 7, 2006

The lodge that served as our base was the Pousada Arauna. It is a wonderful place that would rival any hotel, no less being over 200 miles form ‘civilization.’ The lodge does serve tourists who travel to the Pantanal to experience its beauty and biodiversity.

The apartments are air-conditioned each with a private bathroom. The grounds are beautiful. Animals roam in and out on a regular basis. There is a screened outside room, and open covered area with hammocks, and a swimming pool. The meals are served buffet style with several choices at every meal and plenty to eat. The Brazilian food was quite good, prepared fresh for every meal. Have you ever had piranha soup?

The Pousada is owned by UNIDERP, University for the development of the State and the Pantanal region, which has a classroom, laboratory, small library, and even a one-room museum exhibiting indigenous items. The Pousada has tours available from there on foot, by observation truck or jeep, or by horseback. All great ways to experience the plants and animals of this special environment.

The staff all live on the property and were wonderful. They quickly learned everyone’s name and tried the best to converse with you. The native language is Portuguese.
Limited phone and Internet access was available.

Pousada Ararauna

Pousada Ararauna and volunteering

Pousada Ararauna at Santa Emilia Farm
Pantanal, Brazil
55 (67) 3348-8191

Peccaries Research

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Norman on November 7, 2006

Peccaries are hog-like animals that primarily eat fruits and plants. A full grown peccary measure 3 to 4 feet in length and weighs between 45 and 90 pounds. They form herds and have large ranges. Peccaries are important prey for large carnivores in the Pantanal.

The research objectives were to provide populations estimates of the peccaries and feral pigs, estimate seasonal and annual range areas using radio telemetry, and document their environmental role in the region. This required safely capturing peccaries for placing radio collars and identification chips and then tracking them using radio telemetry.

The peccaries were captured in both large fenced in pens about 6 feet by 6 feet and in single metal enclosures. Corn and native fruits were placed in the pen to attract the animals. The door closed with a delicate trigger mechanism that was set up above the bait and attached to the door with a string above the ground. Alexine, the researcher, said this is what the natives use in the Amazon. It took skill to set the triggering string.

The traps were checked daily. Doing this required traveling to remote locations which required a boat, horses, or walking depending on the area. When a peccary was caught, the team went to work on learning about the animal. The peccary was anesthetized using a jab stick with a syringe. The animal quickly went to sleep and then the team went to work. While sedated the peccary was weighed, several size measurements taken, the age determined my examining its teeth, blood taken, and the final step was inserting a radio chip the size of a grain of rice under its skin so if the same animal was captured it could easily be identified. Some animals were given a radio collar for tracking their movements. This was all accomplished quickly, then the peccary was returned to the enclosure. The animal was released many hours later, the time given to be sure it was fully alert after the anesthesia. This process did not harm the animal.

Of course, most days peccaries were not captured. But the research went on tracking their movements with radios. This provided important information on their habits and ranges.

To learn more about peccaries visit

To join a peccary expedition see:

Bats Research

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Norman on November 7, 2006

As part of the Earthwatch expedition I participated in bats research in the Pantanal. Of course this was a late night activity. We would leave the Pousada at 5pm and drive to the location where we would set out the mist nets hoping to capture bats. The mist nets are very fine with 4 horizontal sections with pockets at the bottom of each section. The bats would fly into the nets and drop down into the pockets. Then the researchers would have the challenge of removing the bat from the nets. We would check the nets every half hour, and keep the nets up until midnight. We would capture 8 to 16 bats a night, though one evening they caught 37.

Once captured, each bat was placed in a cloth bag and left there for 30 minutes in the hope it would defecate in the bag. This would give the researchers clues to its diet. Then the bat was removed and ‘processed.’ It was identified, weighed, measured, parasites taken off the bats, and its age determined by placing the wing over a flashlight and looking at its bones. Then it was tagged with a small necklace with beaded numbers for identification. Finally it was released, no worse for wear. During my nights we captured insectivorous, herbivorous, and carnivorous bats. Yes, we even had a few vampire bats. It was an amazing experience to see these animals up close and learn about them first-hand.

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