From Publishers Weekly
The Pantanal (Portuguese for swampland) is an immense flood plain, part of the Paraguay River Basin in western Brazil, eastern Bolivia and northeastern Paraguay. Annual torrential rains turn the region into a vast inland sea; after the floods recede it becomes a lush grassland with water holes that support an extraordinary variety of wildlife. In Brazil there are two protected reserves and huge, privately owned cattle ranches. Freelance photojournalist Banks has traveled in the Pantanal eight times since 1983. He tells a woeful story: illegal hunters, miners and commercial fishermen are stripping the region; in the surrounding high plains, farmers are using enormous amounts of agrichemicals; enforcement efforts are lax to nonexistent. While the media and environmentalists are concentrating on the tropical rain forests, grasslands are going up in smoke and a vital ecosystem is being destroyed. Banks visits officials, politicans and noted Swedish filmmaker Arne Sucksdorff in his quest for enlightenment on the Pantanal. Readers will enjoy his account of journeys in this exotic and unfamiliar region; they will quail at his description of a wild animal market in Rio. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
For readers distressed by the destruction of Brazil's rain forest and inclined to further armchair exploration of that country's threatened ecosystems, Banks's first-person travelogue offers a standard blend of background on the 400,000-square- kilometer Pantanal wilderness in southern Brazil, journal-like narration of his progress through the region, observation of its abundant but endangered wildlife, and eco-alert on current environmental abuses. Though photojournalist Banks (National Geographic, Smithsonian, etc.) is an able writer and recounts his share of hairy experiences--a bee attack, precarious crossings of unstable bridges, a hotel room shared with assorted uninvited wildlife--his descriptions of the plethora of birds and animals are almost perfunctory, and he never establishes himself or his mission, an almost idly presented photo expedition, as a lure for reader involvement. Much of the book's first half details Banks's journey through the Pantanal to the national park in its southern reaches; but once he's there, the story plods on without a change of pace or tone through a meal, a disappointing dearth of the wildlife that had been so abundant on the way, a fishing trip without a catch, and, with no more ado, the journey back. No doubt the 60 photographs (40 color, 20 b&w) yet to come will contribute needed life to this relatively bland account. And there is more to chew on in the book's second half, where Banks gets into environmental issues and reports on interviews and visits with Brazilians concerned about the impact of ranchers' land-clearing fires, farmers' agrichemical abandon, gold miners' careless use of mercury, poachers' animal-skin hunting and illegal commercial fishing, and inadequate police enforcement of protective legislation. Another so-so addition, then, to a familiar story that still needs telling. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.