Rich variety of terrestrial and aquatic wildlife in the Cantão Ecosystem

Protection and Management of Cantão Ecosystem

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Araguaia river dolphin in Cantão

The Cantão conservation area in the south-east of the Amazon region includes the inland delta of the Araguaia and Janaés rivers and is home to many different animals which have already become rare elsewhere, such as the giant otter or black caiman. The pink Araguaia river dolphin is also to be found in the waters, which teem with fish. This is a new species which was only identified by scientists in January 2014 and is endemic in the Araguaia basin. The population consists of fewer than 1,000 animals, making the river dolphin one of the most seriously threatened cetaceans. 

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Flood area in Cantão

Cantão consists primarily of floodplain forest which is under water for half of the year. Countless oxbow lakes provide a refuge for water birds and turtles and offer ideal conditions for an enormous variety of freshwater fish. In Cantão Park there are more types of fish than in the whole of Europe - and there are even more than in the Pantanal basin which is 200 times larger.. Located on the natural border to the savanna, the Cantão Park is home to flora and fauna from a range of different aquatic and terrestrial habitats. Covering well over 90,000 hectares and featuring large populations of threatened aquatic predators, Cantão is one of the most diverse and important freshwater ecosystems in the world. The park also represents an important part of a system consisting of different conservation areas covering more than two million hectares which is intended to act as a bulwark against intensive agriculture spreading from the south.

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Giant otter in Cantão

The FZS is supporting the local non-Government organisation Instituto Araguaia in its efforts to protect Cantão Park more effectively. The FZS staff help to monitor the parts of the vast region which the government rangers do not have the resources to cover sufficiently. In 2013, for example, a biologist and two park rangers were employed to ensure that the field station is manned around the clock. The team conducts weekly inspection rounds, collecting data on the water quality, on the animal count of selected species and on human activity. Camera traps, a portable fibreglass canoe, solar panels and various items of field equipment have been purchased with the FZS's support. The use of a drone, a small remote-controlled aircraft with camera which can take photos from altitudes of up to 300 metres, has proven highly useful. Within 10 minutes it was able to check 20 to 30 oxbow lakes for the presence of illegal fishermen. It has also been used to document the numbers of river dolphins in the clear waters.


The park and an information centre for visitors were opened in June 2013. In the preceding six months 7.5 km of hiking trails had been created, an observation platform erected and benches and bridges constructed. Information boards and videos about the conservation area have been created for the visitor centre.  3,000 people visited the park between its opening and the end of the year. 


  • Enabling improved surveillance of the region by deploying two extra part-time rangers and providing equipment
  • Carrying out wildlife monitoring, especially of the giant otter
  • Developing suitable, environment-friendly tourism
  • Carrying out educational work on the expansion of soya cultivation, possibly including an environment education campaign in the neighbouring communities