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THE PANTANAL by Vic Banks

THE PANTANAL

Brazil's Forgotten Wilderness

By Vic Banks

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 1991
ISBN: 0-87156-791-1
Publisher: Random House

 For readers distressed by the destruction of Brazil's rain forest and inclined to further armchair exploration of that country's threatened ecosystems, Banks's first-person travelogue offers a standard blend of background on the 400,000-square- kilometer Pantanal wilderness in southern Brazil, journal-like narration of his progress through the region, observation of its abundant but endangered wildlife, and eco-alert on current environmental abuses. Though photojournalist Banks (National Geographic, Smithsonian, etc.) is an able writer and recounts his share of hairy experiences--a bee attack, precarious crossings of unstable bridges, a hotel room shared with assorted uninvited wildlife--his descriptions of the plethora of birds and animals are almost perfunctory, and he never establishes himself or his mission, an almost idly presented photo expedition, as a lure for reader involvement. Much of the book's first half details Banks's journey through the Pantanal to the national park in its southern reaches; but once he's there, the story plods on without a change of pace or tone through a meal, a disappointing dearth of the wildlife that had been so abundant on the way, a fishing trip without a catch, and, with no more ado, the journey back. No doubt the 60 photographs (40 color, 20 b&w) yet to come will contribute needed life to this relatively bland account. And there is more to chew on in the book's second half, where Banks gets into environmental issues and reports on interviews and visits with Brazilians concerned about the impact of ranchers' land-clearing fires, farmers' agrichemical abandon, gold miners' careless use of mercury, poachers' animal-skin hunting and illegal commercial fishing, and inadequate police enforcement of protective legislation. Another so-so addition, then, to a familiar story that still needs telling.