Wildlife and Fauna of the Pantanal in Mato Grosso

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The wildlife and fauna of the Pantanal in Mato Grosso consist of a harmonious universe, unique in the world in its extraordinary and teeming beauty, with its mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects.

Animals from different ecosystems coexist in the Pantanal – and in few places in the world can they be spotted so easily in the wild.

Fauna do Pantanal Matogrossense
Wildlife and Fauna of the Pantanal in Mato Grosso

They have been there for a long time: in caves and limestone grottoes on the edge of the Bodoquena mountain range, traces have been found of the animals that dominated the Pantanal plain before the last glaciation, around 12,000 years ago – among them, the sabre-toothed tiger (Smílodo popudator) and the giant sloth (Eremotherium lundi).

The exuberance of the fauna is perpetuated. Over the millennia, a series of favourable conditions have contributed to the Pantanal becoming one of the richest wildlife refuges on the planet.

Although it doesn’t have many endemic species, as it is a confluence of biomes, its territory is home to a fabulous number of migratory animals and others typical of the cerrado and tropical forests.

The numbers are impressive. It is estimated that there are 665 species of birds, 263 of fish, 95 of mammals and 162 of reptiles, as well as 1132 butterflies.

3.9 million caimans, 400,000 capybaras and tens of millions of birds have already been recorded.

The animals are spotted near the farms, on the roads, on the banks of rivers, streams, corixos and bays, even by those without special equipment.


60 Espécies da Fauna do Pantanal


The main attraction of the Pantanal is the ease with which you can spot wild animals living in freedom. Some, however, are more skittish.

It’s not often that you see a jaguar, for example – but those who do will never forget the majestic beauty of the largest feline in the Americas.

The largest jaguars can weigh more than 120 kilos.

Onça-pintada no Pantanal Matogrossense

It is estimated that there are more than 20,000 jaguars in the forests, in shady and humid places, almost always near rivers.

Onça-parda no Pantanal Matogrossense
Onça-parda no Pantanal Matogrossense

Other common cats in the humid plains are the parda jaguar, smaller and more agile than the guinea fowl (it weighs around 50 kilos), the jaguatirica, the gato-do-mato and the gato-mourisco.

Deer are also common.

One of them is the large marsh deer, which lives in flooded places with dense vegetation, near rivers and marshes, where it shares space with the pampas deer and the roe deer.

There are also capybaras, bush pigs, bats, giant otters, anteaters, monkeys and armadillos.


The extensive floodplain can be called – without risk of exaggeration – a bird paradise.

Aves no Pantanal Matogrossense

Around 650 species have already been identified within its boundaries.

Throughout the year, there is a continuous flow of species, intensified in the period from July to November, the breeding season for most birds.

It’s no coincidence that birdwatching brings more and more visitors to the region.

The species most immediately associated with the Pantanal is the tuiuiú or jaburu, a large bird from the stork family that builds its nests in the tallest trees.

The nests, the name given to the concentration of nests in the same place, are a trademark of the Pantanal landscape.

Between the large touiuiús and the chocas, the general name given to small birds, there is a whole universe.

Macaw in the Pantanal of Mato Grosso
Macaw in the Pantanal of Mato Grosso

There are macaws, of various types blue macaw, red macaw and canindé macaw – as well as parakeets and other psittaciformes; there are hawks, also many and varied, such as the beautiful hawk, the caboclo hawk and the caramujeiro, which feeds on crustaceans and aquatic molluscs using its hook-shaped claw.

Equally common are spoonbills, rheas and seriemas, herons, socós, biguás, biguatingas, anhumas and tachãs, which emit loud, shrill cries, which is why they are considered the sentinels of the Pantanal.


Scale fish, leather fish, colourful, mimetic, in shoals or solitary.

The Paraguay basin is one of the richest in the world in terms of the number and diversity of aquatic creatures and attracts fishermen and scholars from all over.

Peixe dourado
Golden fish

Among the most common fish in Pantanal rivers is the agile goldfish, which can reach 18 kilos.

A rapids jumper, the dourado, as well as other species of fish (curimbatá, piraputanga, lambaris, piaus and some catfish), swim against the current towards the springs to reproduce and spawn.

During this period, called piracema, fishing is forbidden; the volume of fish in the waterways is so high that real congestion occurs.

When the waters begin to recede, the fish make their way back, but many are unable to cross the obstacles and become trapped in lakes and lagoons, making them easy targets for birds, alligators and other predators.

The piranha, another fish typical of the Pantanal, lives mainly in deep water.

Although it is always seen as a fearsome predator, it hardly attacks large animals unless they are injured; in fact, it mainly eats pieces of other fish’s fins – piranhas are mutilators – or dead animals.

Pantanal stingrays, which have a dangerous stinger in their tails, are rarely seen, as they burrow deep into muddy waters.

Among the species that attract fishermen are the jaú, a huge leather fish that can weigh up to 100 kilos, and the pintado, which can reach 1.5 metres in length and more than 25 kilos in weight.


Sucuris, vipers and caimans are among the reptiles that live in the Pantanal – often making their presence felt under the nests, waiting for their young to fall from the branch. Despite their threatening appearance, reptiles are not usually aggressive and will flee when threatened.

Among the snakes, the best known is the majestic sucuri. The species found in the Pantanal can reach 5 metres and, with its muscular strength, it wraps itself around its prey and kills it by constriction and asphyxiation: it then spends days digesting the food.

Targeted by the illegal fur trade, caimans were killed in their thousands until the 1970s, when environmental protection laws became stricter.

Caiman, Yacare Caiman, crocodiles on the surface of the river, night with blue sky, animals in their natural habitat. Pantanal, Brazil
Alligator of the Pantanal

Today, free from the threat of extinction, the alligators of the Pantanal can be seen in rivers (night expeditions are among the most popular programmes) or bred in captivity authorised by Ibama.

Pantanal waters are also home to forty species of frogs and toads.

Together, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects make up a harmonious universe, unique in the world in its extraordinary and teeming beauty.

See the following publications on the Pantanal of Mato Grosso:

  1. Watching Mammals and Reptiles in the Pantanal
  2. Fishing in the Pantanal – Best places, baits, methods and seasons
  3. Most common fish species in the Pantanal
  4. Bird watching in the Pantanal of Mato Grosso
  5. Most common bird species in the Pantanal of Mato Grosso
  6. Flora of the Pantanal of Mato Grosso
  7. Fauna of the Pantanal of Mato Grosso
  8. Mato Grosso Pantanal – Geography, Climate, Soil and Rivers
  9. History of the Mato Grosso Pantanal – Discovery and Economic Development
  10. Southern Pantanal Region
  11. North Pantanal Region
  12. Why go to the Pantanal in Mato Grosso?

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