Brazil’s Cerrado Also in Danger

Today’s NY Times travel section included a wonderful story by Connie White about Brazil’s cerrado. It’s just as threatened but not as well known as the Amazon.

“The cerrado in Piauí, he said, as he packed five of us into his four-wheel-drive car last summer, has not changed much since the first Portuguese settlers called it “Beyond Nowhere.” But this nowhere has some of Brazil’s most unusual wildlife, and is on the front line in the struggle to save perhaps the world’s biologically richest savanna.

A swath of forest up to twice the size of Connecticut is cleared annually in the Amazon, causing an international outcry every year. It isn’t generally noted that right next door, the cerrado, Brazil’s equivalent of Africa’s Serengeti, is being transformed at a far faster rate. With the equivalent of two and a half soccer fields worth of savanna disappearing every minute, Conservation International predicts the cerrado will be gone in 25 years.

Bordered by the Pantanal wetlands on the west and the Amazon River on the north, this 740,000-square-mile region — almost a third larger than Alaska— is just beginning to hit the radar screen as an eco-tourism destination. In 2002, a scenic area of dry forest and red rock escarpments was named a national park, Parque Nacional das Nascentes do Rio Parnaíba (National Park of the Parnaíba River Headwaters), the largest outside the Amazon. Inside this park straddling four states are three lodges called the Hyacinth Camps, our destination.”