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A slow death along the Pilcomayo River

Paraguay
08-11-2016-paraguay-590.JPG

Dead yacare caimans are seen in the dried-out river bed of Pilcomayo river in Boqueron, Paraguay, on 14 August 2016. © REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

In Paraguay, alongside the Pilcomayo River, black vultures flew over a shrinking pond where a group of crocodilian reptiles known as yacare caimans sought refuge.

Water from the river, which divides Paraguay and Argentina in the area of the Gran Chaco, was scarce.

This is not an uncommon sight in the region of General Diaz, about 700 kilometres (435 miles) northwest of the country's capital Asuncion, where the Pilcomayo waters form lakes and streams that give life to capybaras, birds and caimans.

'The river's situation is critical. No water is forecast to enter the basin until December, as happens every year,' Alcides Gonzalez, a resident of the area, told Reuters.

The Pilcomayo River is at its lowest level of the past 19 years in Paraguay, according to the Ministry of Public Works and Communications.

'The river is 60 per cent sediment and 40 per cent water," said Gonzalez, who owns a cattle ranch that is also home to deer, capybaras and more than 8,000 caimans that consistently migrate in search of water.

'Animals are migrating naturally, but those that are weak no longer move,' Gonzalez said.

Residents around General Diaz say it hasn't rained there since last May, and that the river was already greatly reduced in 2015 and unable to fill lagoons and ponds as it used to.

Cattle are herded to grounds with water at the Agropil ranch in Boqueron, Paraguay, on 14 August 2016.

REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

A woman bottle feeds a cattle whose mother had died, at the Agropil ranch in Boqueron, Paraguay, on 14 August 2016.

REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

The carcass of a yacare caiman lies in the dried-up river bed of the Pilcomayo river in Boqueron, Paraguay, on 14 August 2016.

REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

Cows stand in a saltwater pond to refresh themselves at the Agropil ranch in Boqueron, Paraguay, on 14 August 2016.

REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

A dead capybara lies in the dried-up river bed of the Pilcomayo river in Boqueron, Paraguay, on 14 August 2016.

REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

Vultures sit next to the carcass of a yacare caiman at a dried-up artificial pond at the Agropil ranch in Boqueron, Paraguay, on 14 August 2016.

REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

Yacare caimans float in a pond at the San Jorge ranch in General Diaz, Paraguay, on 14 August 2016.

REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

Yacare caimans are being rescued and taken to an artificial pond by volunteers in Boqueron, Paraguay, on 14 August 2016.

REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

Photos and text by Reuters.