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Defensores del Chaco

Mbaracayu Nature Reserve

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Defensores del Chaco National Park

Chaco savannas are the sixth largest ecosystem in Latin America and Caribbean, and Defensores del Chaco National Park is located in the heart of the Paraguayan Chaco. Defensores del Chaco protects one of the very few seasonal freshwater springs that supplies vital drinking water to the western Chaco region. The sensitive Timane River system and other water sources depend on climate to create seasonal swamps, lakes and wetlands.

did you know?

Defensores del Chaco National Park has been classified by the World Bank and the Paraguayan Government as the highest priority for conservation, and that threats are “vulnerable and outstanding in the ecoregion.”

sea birds, Chaco

Sea birds flying over Chaco Savannas
© Janie M. Greene

site profile

total area protected:
291,000 acres

Chaco Savannas

partner organization:
Fundacion Desdel Chaco (FDC)

Ecological Importance

The mixture of rich wildlife from the Amazon to the north, Patagonia to the south, and the Andes to the west contribute to the abundance of biodiversity in the Chaco. Chaco is home to many endemic and endangered species, including many mammal species that are not as well-represented in  neighboring ecoregions. Large mammals rarely seen in other areas, such as the jaguar and puma, are indicators of a healthy ecosystem, are found in abundance in this region. Fifty-three species of mammals have been reported in the Chaco, compared to only 34 found in nearby Manu National Park in Peru.


Hunting is the most widespread threat to Defensores del Chaco. Hunters access the area via roads constructed by oil companies and a road in the south of the park, used for an automobile rally, which also disturbs wildlife. As throughout the Chaco region, cattle ranching and agriculture are the two strongest economic forces behind the irreversible transformation of the Chaco. In Paraguay, clearing for pasturelands accounts for the loss of about 123,500 acres of Chaco Savanna each year.

A Strategy of Success

Since PiP funding began, three park guard stations have been added and four more park guards have been hired.  A Chief Park Guard was hired and training was provided for all guards. A Rapid Ecological Assessment was conducted, and was the first scientific tool used to gather information for management and conservation of the park’s resources. PiP also strengthened the Center for Conservation Data (CDC-Paraguay) by providing computer equipment and funds to increase the staff.

PiP’s partner organization, Fundación DeSdel Chaco, worked with the communities of Sierra León, Campo Ampu, Lagerenza, and Teniente Martinez to conduct appraisals of the park and develop sustainable resource use plans compatible with park conservation goals. Possibly the most important achievement of the local communities and stakeholders was the action taken during the “Campaign in Defense of Defensores National Park” in 2000, to prevent a governmental actions that were damaging the park.

PiP funding has enabled the strengthening of Fundación DeSdel Chaco, including support for an expanded and qualified staff. The organization has created a five-year strategic plan for conservation in the Chaco and is a direct recipient of USAID funds.

Upon site consolidation in 2002, “Paraguayan Wildlands Initiative” and Secretaria del Ambiente (SEAM) took over the responsibility for funding, continue to provide salaries for nine park guards, and are working closely with Fundación DeSdel Chaco  to continue conservation in the Chaco.

Read more about Defensores del Chaco...

Fundacion Desdel Chaco (FDC)
The Nature Conservancy in the Chaco

Read more about projects in Paraguay...

Mbaracayú Nature Reserve

Paraguay Partner Organizations

The Nature Conservancy in Paraguay