After months of planning, the trip starts with a snag: Julie, my Expedition co-reporter's, visa is delayed. Apparently, the Brazilian Consulate of Los Angeles is swamped with visa applications this time of year because Carnival is in February. As a result, Julie will have to fly out the day after I arrive – so we plan to meet in Campo Grande and head out of the city one day later than expected. That's how international travel plans go sometimes – being flexible is essential.
"Everyone laughs whenever I try to say anything in Portuguese, and then they bring me a pork sandwich."
I leave as planned. Getting here is exhausting. I flew all day – and boy, my arms are killing me. Old joke, but my arms really are hurting – not from flapping them, but from the four vaccinations I had to have before visiting the tropics. The trip really was long too – I left for the airport yesterday at noon, and didn't arrive until today at 3pm, three plane changes and five airports later.
ISSUE: Vaccinations and staying healthy while traveling
In Brazil everyone speaks Portuguese, so I'm having a hard time getting by. Luckily, I know Spanish, and there seems to be some over-lap between the languages. I'm also trying to learn words that are essential for me, like "obrigado" (thanks), "sim" (yes), and "vegetariano" (vegetarian). But my pronunciation must be pretty bad as everyone laughs whenever I try to say anything in Portuguese, and then they bring me a pork sandwich.
While waiting for Julie to arrive in Campo Grande, I visit Conservation International's office in the city. Everyone there is very friendly and I learn a little bit about our efforts in the region.
The office opened in 1995 with just one person working there. Today there are six full-time employees and one part-time. I talk at length with Monica Harris, coordinator for the Corridor Project. She explains to me that the Corridor Project is the cornerstone for the work CI is doing in the Pantanal region. The Project is an attempt to form a wilderness area linking protected lands in the Pantanal to Emas National Park in the Cerrado forest, using the Taquari and Negro Rivers as a natural path. This would allow for wildlife to travel back and forth between the two areas.
ISSUE: Learn more about conservation corridors
CI is partnering with Emas Foundation and the Secretary of the Environment for the Brazilian State of Mato Grosso do Sul to create this conservation opportunity. And they have already had two major successes: based on a 1998 Priority Setting Workshop sponsored by CI and the Ministry of the Environment for Mato Grosso do Sul, the State Secretary of the Environment established the Taquari Headwaters State Park outside Emas National Park, setting aside more than 30,600 hectares for wildlife along the Taquari River.
Then, on June 5th of this year, the State Secretary for the Environment decreed a Pantanal State Park on the Rio Negro – adjoining the private reserves of the Fazenda Rio Negro and two neighboring farms committed to conservation, to form over 78,000 protected hectares in the Pantanal. As a result, the dream of a Conservation Corridor between Emas National Park and the Fazenda Rio Negro is becoming a reality.
ACTIVITY: Gain map skills while studying the geography of the Pantanal and Brazil
Hearing about this great work makes me eager to get to the wildlife. Luckily we head out for the bush tomorrow! Julie just arrived, so we're off to see the city.
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