Environment

Orinoco River - Great Rivers Of South America

The Orinoco courses along for a distance of 1,330 miles through Venezuela and Colombia before emptying into the Atlantic.

5. Description

The Orinoco River is one of the largest rivers of South America, and is 2,140 kilometers long. Its drainage basin is known as Orinoquia, which is 76.3% in Venezuela and the remaining portion is in Colombia. They are the major transportation system from the interiors and eastern side of Venezuela and the Ilanos of Colombia. The people of Warao are the inhabitants of this area and in their language, Orinoco means the place to paddle. Moreover, these people are also known as the boat people. There are many well-known tributaries of Orinoco River like the largest tributary Caroni. The river system is even known as Casiquiare Canal, which runs to Rio Negro and forms a natural canal between the Orinoco and Amazon Rivers.

4. Historical Role

The mouth of the river was found by Christopher Columbus on his third voyage on August 1st, 1498, which has its source in Cerro Delgado-Chalbaud in the Parima Range, though it was not explored until the year 1951. Orinoco River source was found by the Venezuelan-French team, which was near the Venezuelan and Brazilian border. Its delta and the tributaries were known as Meta and Apure, and explored by German explorers in the 16th Century under the guidance of Ambrosius Ehinger. The report on Pink River Dolphins was published by Alexander Von Humboldt in the year 1800. Industrial and urban development were witnessed in the year 1937 and 1948 when oil and natural gas were explored and the agriculture also developed in 1950 with the rise of small farms in the area.

3. Modern Significance

Various economic activities are witnessed in the region as ocean ships are mostly seen, and the river streamers also carry cargo to Puerto Ayacucho and Atures Rapids. In the area, the full scale iron ore mining is also done as it is known for its rich deposits with Venezuelan and the U.S. Steel Companies working here. A swim race is also conducted in the rivers of Orinoco and Caroni, and it draws 1,000 competitors. The Paso a Nado Internacional de los Rios Orinoco-Caroni is celebrated since the year 1991 sometime around the 19th of April. It has gained its popularity around the world and many competitors participate in it.

2. Habitat and Biodiversity

In the Orinoco River region, there are 1,000 species or more of the birds, which are found here. The famous ones are the bell-bird, umbrella bird, scarlet ibis, flamingos and numerous parrots. The variety of fishes found in the region includes catfish named laulao, which grows in weight up to 200 pounds, electric eel, carnivorous piranha and the Amazon River Dolphin. The reptiles in the region include the boa constrictors, Orinoco crocodile, caimans, and the Arrau, which is a side-necked turtle. Many of the mammals found here include tapirs, deer, jaguars, capybaras, and rabbits.

1. Environmental Threats and Territorial Disputes

The biggest threat in the region is to the river dolphins due to fishing, pollution, dams, and boat traffic. Most of the region is being cleared for cattle ranching, crop agriculture, and mining activities, which are exploiting the Orinoco's natural resources. The construction of large dams are responsible for destroying the natural water flow as well, which supports aquatic life of the region.

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