Caimans were hit particularly hard when Paraguay's Pilcomayo River dried up in 2016. In some places along the river, they lost 98 percent of their population. Photo: Jorge Adorno / Reuters

By Aaron Sidder
22 July 2016

(National Geographic) – Vultures rest in the tree’s upper branches, their black bodies in stark contrast to the blanched wood beneath their feet. Below them, caimans and capybaras crawl in sucking mud through the Agropil lagoon, seeking water that is unlikely to arrive for many months. The river has dried up, and there is nowhere for them to go.

The lagoon, located in the western Paraguayan province of Boquerón, is just one of many stretches of the Pilcomayo River suffering an extensive die-off of caiman, fish, and other river creatures. There have not been any official estimates from the Ministry of the Environment, but Roque González Vera, a journalist for ABC Color in Paraguay, reports utter devastation in some places: Up to 98 percent of caimans (Caiman yacare) are suspected dead, and 80 percent of the capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) population has died.

Paraguay is in the midst of an ecological crisis.

The crisis stems from a combination of drought and mismanagement that has left the Pilcomayo River dry for nearly 435 miles (700 kilometers), according to Vera. On June 24, Paraguay declared an environmental emergency, but little has been done, or can be done, to provide relief for the imperiled animals until the wet season returns. The dry season typically lasts through October, and the annual recharge does not generally occur until January.

So, what went wrong? [more]

Wildlife Dying En Masse as South American River Runs Dry



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