Animals & Plants in Paraguay
Paraguay is a rather flat country. Unlike in the more western South American countries, the Andes do not run through Paraguay. The typical mountains with steep slopes are missing. In contrast, animals and plants that are adapted to this drought live in the dry west of the Chaco. Freshwater fish live in the rivers that run through the country to the east. Rainforest also grows there.
The deforestation of forest is a major problem in Paraguay. Around 400,000 hectares of forest are still destroyed every year. That’s more than 560,000 soccer fields – can you imagine that?
There are 167 species of mammals in Paraguay. Compared to other Latin American countries, this is a rather low biodiversity. A typical animal in the Chaco is the Chaco peccary. Ball armadillos and viscachas, rodents that belong to the chinchillas group, also live there. Capybaras are rodents too, but are found across the country.
The big cats of Paraguay include the jaguar and its little brother, the jaguarundi, as well as puma, ocelot and tayra. In the northeast the tiger cat lives in the rainforest, in the far east the long-tailed cat. The crab raccoon and coati are also at home in Paraguay. Other mammals are armadillos and anteaters. There are also monkeys, for example the black howler monkey and capuchin monkey.
700 species of birds are at home in Paraguay. Colorful birds like the green-winged macaw and the giant toucan live in the rainforest. The night-throated bellbird is known for its loud calls. The Chimango Karakara has its northernmost distribution area in Paraguay. And do you already know the sulfur tyrant? A migratory bird that overwinters in Paraguay is the barn swallow, for example.
Fish live in the rivers of the east such as the Río Pilcomayo and the Río Paraguay. 200 species have been counted in Paraguay. They include catfish, dourados and piranhas. The spectacled caiman and the broad-snouted caiman can be found in rivers, but also in lakes and swamps.
Which plants grow in Paraguay?
Thorn bushes and cacti grow in the dry Chaco. The foil silk tree, which creates a thick reservoir of water, is also adapted to drought. Its trunk has pointed spines. It produces pretty flowers. Other trees in the Chaco are the Schinopsis tree (quebracho), the Urinday tree, the American Patagonula tree and the Trithrinax palm. The wax palm, for example, grows in the more humid areas to the east. It is widespread there.
The national tree of Paraguay is the Lapacho tree, also called the Tajy. It belongs to the trumpet trees and blooms in pink, orange, white and yellow. A lapacho tree can be seen in every painting that shows Paraguay.
In the east, the mate bush grows wild, but it is also cultivated. Mate tea is made from its leaves.
Have you heard of stevia before? A sweetener is made from this plant. We have only been able to use it for a few years. Stevia comes from South America. Stevia grows in the border area between Paraguay and Brazil. The Guaraní Indians have been using their leaves for centuries for sweetening, but also as a medicinal plant.
Paraguay’s economy: hydropower, soy and beef
Soybeans are the product that makes Paraguay the most money. The generation of electricity also plays an important role in Paraguay’s economy. This is done with the help of hydropower. There are three large hydroelectric plants on the Paraná River. Paraguay shares one with Brazil, a second with Argentina, and the third lies entirely on its own soil near Ciudad del Este.
Corruption, poor infrastructure and many small businesses are economic problems. In dry years the harvest turns out poorly, which leads to a decline in the economy. Overall, however, the economy has been growing for several years.
Agriculture still plays an important role in Paraguay, but not as much as it was a few years ago. 26 percent of people work in agriculture. It contributes 17.9 percent to the country’s economy.
Soybeans are the most important product that is grown. Paraguay is the sixth largest producer of soy and the fourth largest exporter in the world.
In the more humid part of the Chaco, pasture farming is mainly used. Cattle are kept and there is also dairy farming. Paraguay is the fourth largest exporter of beef in the world. But cotton, cassava, sugar cane and grain are also grown. Stevia has grown in importance in recent years.
Soy beans, also known as soy for short, are versatile. Above all, soybean oil is obtained from it, and it is also used as animal feed. They are also processed into a fuel for cars, biodiesel. Food such as margarine, soy sauce and tofu are also made from soy. Most of the world’s soybeans are grown in the US and Brazil.
Industry and Services
For some years now, more and more industry has emerged. 18.5 percent of the population work here. Industry contributes 27.7 percent to economic output. In addition to the hydropower plants, these include factories for sugar, meat, cement, clothing, drinks, steel and wood. Mining has hardly played a role so far. In 2010, however, titanium ore was discovered. Its dismantling could become economically significant.
54.5 percent are generated through services. 55 percent of people work here, for example in power generation, in banks, in restaurants or in retail. Tourism has hardly played a role so far, Paraguay is one of the least visited countries in Latin America with around 600,000 tourists annually.