Severe drought threatens lives of caimans in western Paraguay

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Dozens of caimans are on the verge of death because of a harsh drought that has hit a wide desert zone of Paraguay known as the Chaco Boreal.

Owners of the area's San Jorge Hacienda have tried to rescue the adult and newborn yacare caimans by drilling 18 wells to collect water that is then transported to reservoirs normally used for cattle. During a recent visit, Associated Press journalists found two dead caimans in the area and several others agonizing in the mud. The yacare caiman is found in central South American, including the rivers of Paraguay.

The caimans were seen about a few miles outside of Fortin General Diaz, a small community with army barracks near the Pilcomayo River, which runs from the Andean foothills in Bolivia and serves as a natural border between Argentina and Paraguay.

The small fort for which the community is named for is about 310 miles west of the capital Asunción and can only be reached by land by driving on an unpaved road. The waters from the Pilcomayo river stopped reaching this area after a massive flood earlier this year changed its course to Argentine territories. The entry point of the river into Paraguay remains blocked with sediment.

"Everyone is demanding a final solution but there's no end in sight to this problem because the river goes where it wants to go," said Edwin Paul, a governor of the affected state of Boquerón. He added that wild animals such as capybaras, as well as the yacare caimans and other reptiles, continue to suffer during the drought.

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The government of Argentina's Formosa province has been working to unclog the mouth of the river, which only receives abundant water twice a year through the melting of ice from the Andes.

Alcides González, manager of a large farm in the area, said workers have relocated livestock to give the caimans a larger space to survive. González said that some Mennonite communities living nearby have offered to donate food for the caimans.

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