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Play now 25 mins

Swimming With Piranhas

Duration:
25 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 28 August 2012

Mike Greenwood journeys into one of the world's final frontiers, the Chaco in Paraguay, to uncover how environmental groups, ranchers and missionaries are battling for the soul of one of the last wildernesses.

The Chaco is now being deforested and turned into cattle pasture at a rate equivalent to 2,500 football pitches every day.

Against the backdrop of the impeachment of President Lugo, Mike meets German-speaking Mennonites thriving in the Chaco, environmental campaigners, indigenous people fighting to survive in their ancestral land and pro-development ranchers who argue conservation is a luxury Paraguay cannot afford.

The Chaco is a meeting point for several major habitats, including lowland rainforest, grassland, wetlands, dry and humid forest ecosystems.

It is also one of the last places on earth where un-contacted peoples live.

Some scientists believe these lesser-known habitats are more threatened than rainforest regions such as the Amazon.

Paraguay's Chaco grasslands are particularly at risk because they easily convert to cattle pasture.

This is the closest most of us will get to the 'wild west'.

A 21st Century frontier country in which a battle for the socio-economic and spiritual soul of a hitherto little explored region is being fought.

(Image: Piranha fish)

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