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Expanding empathy towards biodiversity: My trip to Paraguay

December 23, 2019


By David Norman. Field Program Professor
Edited by admin

Last December I spent 20 days in Paraguay, a country where I had worked in the early 1980s. I also gathered my data for my master’s thesis in 1985.  I went to put the final touches on a field guide to the amphibians and reptiles of the Paraguayan Chaco. Located at a dry area west of the Paraguay River bordering Bolivia, it makes up 60% of the country.

Teniente Enciso National Park

Fortunately, some field biologist friends took me to the National Park Teniente Enciso. Along the way I was able to enlarge my collection of photos of reptiles. This pictures will serve as references for future paintings. Many of the 82 species of birds I observed are endemic to the thorny forest of the Chaco.

David drinks refreshing terere while looking for wildlife from the TransChaco highway

What to drink?

It was definitely hot in the Chaco this time of year, but the solution was to imitate what all Paraguaya

ns do under these circumstances – constantly sip terere from a cup filled with ice water.

Terere is the name for the drink when consumed with cold water; when it is drunk with boiling water it is called mate. It is made from a native plant of the same genus Ilex as U.S. Christmas Holly.

It was interesting to see what was going on in Paraguay

Back in the capital city of Asuncion, I examined specimens from the museum of natural history. I also gave a conference at the university’s natural science department on the herpetofauna of Costa Rica. 

International capital is helping to finance the cutting of the forests in the Chaco to produce beef cattle for export. Financing also aims where there is fresh water available for sorghum and soybeans.

One of the positive changes is the increase in citizen activism in Paraguay

It seems many Paraguayans have reached their limit in their acceptance of corruption, and many groups carry out “sit-ins” and “blockades” at the houses and driveways of corrupt judges, senators and municipal mayors.

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