Bolivia is a South American country bordering Brazil to the north and eastern sides, Paraguay to the southeast, Peru to the northwest, Chile to the southeast and Argentina to the south. About a third of Bolivia consists of the Andean mountain range. Bolivia is geographically and biologically diverse with a rich biodiversity of ecosystems that includes glacial ice fields, grasslands, and rainforests. In an effort to conserve the ecosystem, 10% of the country’s land is purposed for protection and conservation.
The Center for Biodiversity and Conservation (CBC) has identified unique reptile species in Bolivia which include the Big-Headed Pantanal Swamp Turtle, Green Anaconda, Chaco Tortoise and the Bolivian Lancehead.
Native reptiles of Bolivia
Big-Headed Pantanal Swamp Turtle
The Pantanal swamp turtle is the largest turtle species of its genus. This turtle was discovered in 1984 and has an extremely wide head and a blunted snout at the end. It has two small barbels on the chin. The shell of the big-headed Pantanal swamp turtle is dome shaped, wide and ovular. The head, neck, and limbs are dark-greyish in color while the lower body side is contrasted in cream and yellow. The Pantanal swamp turtle is mainly found in the Pantanal swamp inhabiting marshes and slow-flowing streams. Currently, it is classified as a near threatened species with the main threat being pet trade to the USA. Even though the swamp turtles are imported in low numbers, pet trade poses a future threat to the existence of the big-headed Pantanal swamp turtle.
The Yacare Caiman is a species found in eastern Bolivia and other Central-South American countries such as Brazil, Peru, Argentina, and Paraguay. The Yacare Caiman is a small, medium-sized crocodilian. They are known for feeding on piranhas and a wide range of prey such as fish, invertebrates, and snakes. The female species lays about 22 to 35 eggs and builds a mound to protect them from predators. The caiman is classified as least concern and more information is being researched on this species.
The green anaconda, also known as water boa or common anaconda, is a native reptile of Bolivia and other South American countries. It is one of the heaviest and longest known snakes but is a non-venomous boa species. Due to its semi-aquatic lifestyle, its eyes and nostrils are positioned at the top to allow for breathing and vision while the rest of the body is submerged in water. It has an olive-green coloration which provides for perfect camouflage and a striped head which is relatively small in proportion to the thick body. The green anaconda can grow to a maximum length of 6-9 meters and weigh up to 227 kg. The female species are bigger and almost five times heavier than males.They are found in shallow waters and seasonally flooded savannahs. On dry land, they can be found amongst thick vegetation and tree branches.
The Chaco tortoise is native to Argentina, Paraguay, and Bolivia, and its common name Chaco is taken from the Chaco regions found in Argentina. It oval upper shell is yellowish-brown and has a dark-brown ring surrounding the center tan. This tortoise feeds mainly on plants of the plantago genus. It also feeds on grasses, fruits, perennial shrubs, and succulents. In spring, the Chaco tortoise can be found in short burrows in the sandy soils where it seeks refuge during the night. It is classified as a vulnerable species.
Bolivia is home to some of the world’s unique reptile species, with many more species being discovered in the varied ecosystems and habitats of the country. Other native reptiles include the Boddaert's Tropical Racer, Neotropical Snail Eater, Baron's Green Racer and Cochabamba Lancehead.