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The Pantanal: Brazil's Forgotten Wilderness Hardcover – September 24, 1991

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Editorial Reviews

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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Random House, Inc.; First Edition edition (September 24, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871567911
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871567918
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,913,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 10, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This is a well-written and highly personal account of a naturalist-photographer's adventures and misadventures in one of the least known regions of the Brazilian interior, an area teeming with natural beauty that is rapidly being destroyed. The book begins as a light-hearted journey undertaken by an equipment-laden photographer who negotiates his way into the heart of the Pantanal amid much naive bumbling and enthusiasm. It ends on a note of despair as we encounter the ultimate expression of man's cruelty both to himself and to nature, an illegal wild-life market in a Rio suburb where rare birds are caged and mutilated. Along the way we learn much about the history and geography of the Pantanal and of the political corruption that is endemic to Brazil, which has increasingly come under international scrutiny for practices of which no nation is wholly innocent. There are powerful portraits of leading conservationists, such as the brilliant cinematographer, Arne Sucksdorf, and the famed ornithologist, Helmut Sick. The key to Banks's effective presentation of his ecological message is his personal involvement throughout the narrative: the problems of poaching lead to a day with an incredibly inept and thuggish police patrol; the problems of gold-mining and mercury poisoning lead to a day in the pits. We are treated, moreover, to the full range of Brazilian society, from cowboys and peasants to high-placed officials; comrades and friends jostle for space alongside more dubious types. All in all, this is a fine achievement that should be read by anyone with an interest in environment affairs, Brazilian folkways, or, simply, human adventure candidly told. It is considered the leading introduction to the Pantanal and is the basis for a prize-winning film.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Marie McMillen on December 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Superior book about a little known (to me) region. I was so enthralled, I booked a tour to the Pantanal. Thanks to the book, I was quite well-informed. It was the trip of a lifetime enhanced by this book.
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By A Customer on November 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent read. Brings back many of the sites and sounds of the Brazilian Pantanal, experienced in many visits. A very special place, wish that it could be 'protected for posterity'. Photographs help to portray the area, together with the 'story'. Harriett Stubbs
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By Cathleen H. Tuley on October 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Can promptly and is what I expected
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