Environmental victories in the Brazilian Amazon don’t always turn out to be a good thing for its lesser known biome neighbour, the Cerrado. South America’s largest savanna, the Cerrado covers nearly a quarter of Brazil’s land surface and is wondrously biodiverse. But it is increasingly vulnerable to deforestation due to soybean farming and cattle ranching driven from the Amazon. More than 40,000 square miles have been destroyed in the past decade alone.
The Brazilian Campaign for the Defense of the Cerrado (“No savanna, no water, no life”) is sounding the alarm about the pressing need to save this endangered wonderland. Several of South America’s major rivers—including São Francisco, Paraná-Paraguay, and Tocantins- Araguaia—begin here, and five per cent of the planet’s plants and animals are found here. The Cerrado’s dizzying variety of life includes more than 10,000 species of plants (nearly half of which exist nowhere else) and Jurassic Park–size creatures: boarlike tapirs that can top 650 pounds; rare giant armadillos weighing up to 110 pounds; and giant anteaters, threatened with extinction in Brazil, that can weigh more than a hundred pounds. Equally outsized is a giant palm tree called buriti, nesting site for some of the 850-plus bird species and a main food source for many other wild things that call the Cerrado home.
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