Birdwatching in Chaco: Opportunities and challenges to the Bioceanic Highroad Crossing, Brazil / Paraguay segment

Abstract: The border region between the state of Mato Grosso do Sul (Brazil) and Alto Paraguay department (Paraguay) is at the center of a proposed Bi-oceanic Transport Highroad Crossing. In addition to connecting territories to facilitate more efficient production and access to markets, the transport corridor can integrate people and social groups and create new opportunities to value the natural environments through ecotourism. As an ecotone between the Pantanal and Chaco, the border region holds an exuberant biodiversity typical of both ecoregions, and consequently significant potential for ecotourism. The objective of the current work is to propose integrated itineraries for birdwatching tourism in the border region between Brazil and Paraguay, as a strategy for biodiversity conservation, social inclusion, economic diversification and cultural valorization of communities located in the territories influenced by the Bi-oceanic Highroad Crossing. The work was undertaken between 2002 and 2018 in Porto Murtinho (Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil) and Carmelo Peralta and additional areas in the departments of Alto Paraguay, Concepción, Presidente Hayes and Boquerón (Paraguay). Ten potential itineraries for bird-watching tourism were identified, of which five are in Porto Murtinho; two binational and three others in Paraguay. The itineraries involve sites with high diversity of birds: Cachoeira do Apa Municipal Natural Park, Defensores del Chaco National Park, Medanos del Chaco National Park, as well as Private Reserves and the Chaco Biosphere Reserve in Paraguay. Altogether, more than 400 bird species are included, among them endemic, migratory, rare and endangered species. This ecotourism sector represents one of several models for the sustainable development of the Bi-oceanic Highroad Crossing region. In addition, the proposal for integrated birdwatching in the Chaco reflects the transboundary potential of the sector and can enable the improvement of destinations, income generation, identification of new products and the quality of the birdwatcher experience.