Facts about the flora and fauna in Paraguay

Lying in the center of South America with no border to the ocean, Paraguay rarely gets noticed by tourists coming to the continent. The fact that Paraguay tourism is still largely undeveloped does not mean that there is no natural beauty to see. Because of the geographical position of the country, its climate includes both a temperate climatic zone as well as a tropical one. One can imagine Paraguay as a country with a variety of biospheres. In the east, there are plenty of green meadows and forests, while the west of the country is mostly covered with dry grass and sparse trees. As such, Paraguayan native flora and fauna are presented in a plethora of species.

capybaras in nature

Capybaras live in densely forested areas near bodies of water and feel good in the east of the country.

Armadillos and capybaras

Perhaps, the most famous animal that Paraguay is known for is the armadillo – a small mammal covered with tough skin. However, armadillos are not the only interesting animals there. The position of Paraguay on the South American continent allows different species of plants and animals to migrate into the country – both the ones that prefer drier climates and the ones that like more humid habitats.

This way, Paraguay can boast with many beautiful animals. On one hand, lucky tourists may witness some exotic large mammals: pumas, jaguars, and even a local camel species – vicunas. On the other hand, some more widespread species, like boars and deer can also call this country their home. Among small mammals native to Paraguay are monkeys, rabbits, ocelots, capybaras, chinchillas, porcupines and many more.

tucan in nature

Toucans are known for their huge colorful beak.

Under colorful wings

Even though the amount of mammal species in the country is impressive, the true abundance lies in the kinds of birds which can be met in the Paraguayan humid forest. These birds range from native to migratory ones. The country truly has them all: big birds like eagles and condors, exotic ones like Andean flamingos, macaws and hummingbirds, parrots and toucans, as well as everything in between – owls, egrets, partridges, parakeets, geese, finches, and wrens.

In comparison to such an abundance of birds, there is less diverse sea life. In fact, it is limited to mostly freshwater species that live in lakes and rivers. There are also smaller numbers of reptilians, amphibians, and insects species. Notable are beautiful butterfly species that inhabit different parts of Paraguay. Particularly interesting are butterflies of the Swallowtail family. They are large, colorful, and have long wingtips that look like “tails”.

paraguay flag with fruits and vegetables

Paraguayan vegetarian paradise

Even though most tourists are more interested in the vibrant tropical wildlife, the plant life in Paraguay has a lot to offer too. It’s no secret that many edible plants that we enjoy on our plates are native to South America. Lying in the very heart of the continent, Paraguay is famous for a bounty of edible plants. Fruit lovers can, for example, enjoy fresh pineapples and papayas.

Paraguay’s native veggies include the beloved avocado, potato, tomato and a large variety of peppers. Of course, corn should also be mentioned. It is one of the most popular crops here.

If you enjoy a sweet snack, this country has cacao trees and vanilla ready. There is also widespread mate tea. Mate is a caffeinated drink infused from the leaves of yerba mate. The leaf has a very long history and has been first consumed by Guarani people – Paraguay’s indigenous people.

paraguay nature as seen from above

Check out the Chaco

The biggest region for biodiversity in the central part of South America, where Paraguay is also situated, is the Gran Chaco region. It is shared between several countries. Paraguayan Chaco region takes up more than a half of the country’s territory and is mostly a semi-arid and a scarcely populated area.

If one was to travel the region from the east to the west, the changes in plant life would be quite obvious:

  • In Eastern Chaco, there are islands of trees and shrubs in the grass ocean of savannahs. Paraguay is home to pines, eucalyptus and cedar tree, as well as cypresses, which are all common here. In fact, parts of the eastern Chaco (a.k.a. Chaco bajo) are covered with plants so densely that locals have dubbed it El Impenetrable – “The Impenetrable”.
  • Towards the west, the landscape changes. Here you can see dry forests of low trees and thorny shrubs which are perfectly adapted to the arid conditions of this part of Paraguay. An unusual sight to see are quebracho (“axe-breaker”) trees. They only grow in clusters away from big bodies of water and only get as tall as a person on a horseback.
  • The further west you go, the drier the land gets. In the driest regions of Paraguayan Chaco, thorn forests dominate the landscape along with occasional palm groves, savannahs and saline steppes in between.

Improving Paraguay’s ecology

Unfortunately, regions like Eastern Chaco are not a rule, but an exception. The abundance of Paraguay’s flora and fauna is actually endangered. Despite having three protected parts in the Chaco region and the potential of ecotourism to Paraguay, the area still faces rapid deforestation. This fact is the most evident in the rise of the density of livestock-endangering thorny shrubs, the spreading of deforestation-created savannahs and more alarming rates of soil erosion in the country.

But what is the cause of deforestation in Paraguay? The reason is actually quite well-known. The vast national agriculture expansion has caused an increase in private land ownership. This has ultimately led to a loss of about a third of Paraguay’s entire forest and woodland area. This, in return, caused soil erosion and endangerment of animal and plant species.