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Defensores del Chaco

Mbaracayu Nature Reserve

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Mbaracyu Nature Reserve

Mbaracayú, located in the eastern region of Paraguay, protects 66,284 hectacres of Paraguay’s Interior Atlantic Forest, a highly threatened ecoregion that once covered 55% of eastern Paraguay. It was established to conserve the unique biodiversity of flora and fauna of within Paraguay reserve system. Mbaracayú is one of the largest remaining tracts of privately owned dense humid sub-tropical forest in South America.

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Mbaracayú Nature Reserve is privately owned by its partner organization Fundación Moisés Bertoni, making it unique among Parks in Peril sites, usually owned by the governments of their country.

toucan, Mbaracayu Forest Nature Reserve

Toucans are among many bird species found in Mbaracayú © Marcus Koenen

site profile

total area protected:
155,000 acres
map of site

Brazilian Interior Atlantic Forests

partner organization:
Fundación Moisés Bertoni (FMB)

Ecological Importance

Mbaracayú contains the most significant remaining examples of many of the species once found in the now largely destroyed Atlantic Forest of Brazil. There are 19 natural plant communities found in Mbaracayú, 9 of which are found nowhere else in Paraguay’s protected areas system. Many plants and animals now extinct or extremely endangered in other regions are found in Mbaracayú including the cedro, tree fern, calaguala, and kirandy plants, as well as animals such as the jaguar, tapir, and collared anteater.

Ornithological surveys of the reserve have recorded rare sightings of the rufous-faced crake and the endangered helmeted woodpecker — as well as some 420 other bird species. The presence of several species such as the bare-faced curassow and black-fronted piping-guan indicate that the forest has not been subjected to overly intensive hunting.


Upstream contamination from soil erosion and improper use of agrochemicals threatens the ecology of the reserve and the general population within the Jejui watershed. The critical areas for poaching and timber theft are along the northwest boundary, close to roads and settlers, and in the southeast corner where hunters can enter on hidden trails. As the population grows, subsistence hunting pressures from the Ache region may increase, and scarce species, such as the giant river otter, or the collared anteater, may be eliminated.

A Strategy of Success

Before the Parks in Peril (PIP) program began activities in 1992, the area that is now protected as Mbaracayú Reserve was at the center of the largest continuous tract of Interior Atlantic Forest remaining, but it was under private ownership and threatened by logging and conversion to pasture. Poaching and timber cutting were common, and the area was in danger of expropriation by the government and distribution as farmland. PIP worked with Fundación Moisés Bertoni (FMB) to raise $2 million for its purchase. At the time of purchase the boundary lines of the park had not been maintained nor posted and the staff accommodations were deteriorated.

During conservation in Mbaracayú, PIP and FMB identified the ecological values, received government recognition as a private reserve, established a trust fund to pay for future conservation costs, and assumed direct management responsibility for the reserve.

FMB immediately recruited, equipped, and trained 13 guards from the local communities. Using PIP funds guards stations and visitor facilities were constructed, along with marking of the reserve borders.  FMB has developed an environmental education and public relations campaign with the nearby communities. Now there are 22 community groups working on planting yerba mate trees, organic gardening, and bee keeping. FMB has also respected the rights of the indigenous Ache group in the reserve, by allowing them to continue subsistence hunting and granting them a seat on the Honorary Council that oversees the management of Mbaracayú, while helping them to adjust to an environment that will someday no longer support subsistence hunting.

In July of 1996, FMB organized a community celebration of the introduction of electricity to 11 local communities and the reserve. The President of Paraguay recognized the importance of the community in the protection of Mbaracayú in his dedication speech. Mbaracayú was the “flagship” project of FMB and has earned the organization national and international credibility. With the leadership of FMB and PIP the site has been consolidated and Mbaracayú is now enjoying international recognition as an important and well-managed reserve.

Read more about Mbaracayú...

Fundación Moisés Bertoni (FMB)
The Nature Conservancy in the Interior Atlantic Forest

Read more about projects in Paraguay...

Defensores del Chaco National Park

Paraguay Partner Organizations

The Nature Conservancy in Paraguay