Major Wetlands of the World

Wetlands are some of the most spectacular, most beautiful, tranquil places on Earth. Home to unique plants and trees, they are are truly outstanding places.

Pantanal (Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay)

The Pantanal is one of the largest and best preserved wetlands in the world, covering a total area of 150,000km2. Its complex system of marshlands, floodplains, lagoons and interconnected drainage lines is home to over 658 species of birds, 190 mammals, 50 reptiles, 270 fish species and a truly outstanding 1,132 species of butterflies.

Jabiru (Jabiru micteria)
© Gustavo YBARRA / WWF
Aerial view of the Pantanal in June, Brazil
© Fritz Pölking / WWF
Fishermen on the Paraguay River Pantanal, Brazil
© Edward Parker / WWF

Camargue (France)

This place definitely has a certain je ne sais quoi! The Camargue encompasses the Rhone River delta in the southeast of France. Approximately a third of the Camargue is either lakes or marshland. It is one of the best places in Europe for bird watching. Its brine ponds provide one of the few European habitats for the greater flamingo. It is also famous for the Camargue bull and the Camargue horse.

Flock of Greater flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber) feeding in the sunset. Camargue, France
© © Roger Leguen / WWF
Greater flamingos (Phoenicopterus roseus) part of breeding colony of approx 10,000 pairs, with a newly hatched chick, Camargue, France, May 2009.
© Wild Wonders of Europe /Allofs / WWF

Wasur National Park, Indonesia

Wasur National Park is a massive wetland region in the Indonesian province of Papua, on the island of New Guinea. Dubbed the Serengeti of Papua owing to its incredible biodiversity, Wasur National Park plays host to a large number of rare animals and birds, especially around Rawa Biru Lake. There are many water fowl species and migrant birds here along with cassowaries and wallabies. Unfortunately the park natural flooded grassland systems are threatened by the invasion of alien species such as water hyacinth and mimosa pigra.


Seasonal swamp-woodland in the Wasur National Park. West Papua, Indonesia (former Irian Jaya).
© John Ratcliffe / WWF

Kakadu Wetlands, Australia

Kakadu National Park is a diverse park about half the size of Switzerland located in the Northern Territory of Australia. The freshwater and saltwater crocodiles sleep on the banks of the many rivers and billabongs for most of the day but can also be seen floating or swimming in the water. One of Kakadu’s best known landmarks is the Yellow Water billabong. Located near the small settlement of Cooinda, Yellow Water is home to crocodiles, wild horses, buffalo and other wildlife. The billabong, which floods to join other waterways during the tropical season, also attracts millions of migratory birds each year.

Kakadu National Park Floodplain Alligator River Northern Territory, Australia
© James W. Thorsell / WWF
Magpie goose (Anseranas semipalmata); Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia.
© Martin Harvey / WWF

Kerala Backwaters (India)

The Kerala backwaters are a chain of lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast in the Kerala state in southern India. The network includes five large lakes linked by canals, fed by 38 rivers. The backwaters are home to many unique species of aquatic life including crabs, frogs water birds and animals such as otters and turtles. The area is becoming a popular tourist destination with several large Kettuvallams (traditional rice boats now converted into floating hotels) crusing the waterways.
An arching coconut tree, besides the Vembanad Lake, Kerala, India. Vembanad is the longest lake in India and a Ramsar site.
© Rahul Dev Balagopal
Tourists on a country boat amongst lotus blooms in Vembanad Lake, Kerala, India. rel=
Tourists on a country boat amongst lotus blooms in Vembanad Lake, Kerala, India.
© P. K. Niyogi

Okavango (Botswana)

This precious jewel of Africa wants your vote. The Okavango Delta is Africa's largest and most beautiful oasis. The river's mighty waters empty over the sands of the Kalahari. The huge Kalahari desert's thirst is locally quenched in a blue-green wilderness of fresh water, with emerald reed beds and towering trees. This brings in wildlife in huge numbers as they take advantage of this massive watering hole.

Swamp and waterlilies (Nymphaea) in the Okavango Delta, Botswana
© James W. Thorsell / WWF
African elephant herd drinking at the Khwai River in the Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana
© Martin Harvey / WWF

Kafue (Zambia)

The Kafue Flats are located in central Zambia along the Kafue River. This unique wetland landscape of grasslands, lagoons, marshes, swamps and reed beds covers some 6,500km2. It is one of the major wetlands in water-rich Zambia and is extremely important for wildlife, fishing, cattle-grazing, sugar-cane farming and the production of hydro-electric power.
The Kafue Flats floodplain, in the northern section of Lochinvar, has been designated as a World Heritage Wetland Site by the IUCN and WWF under the Ramsar Convention. Zambia
© Martin Harvey / WWF
Chief Mwanachingwala, a local tribal chief is working together with WWF-Netherlands to restore the wetlands of Mwanachingwala Conservation Area, a significant area for the local people where they take their animals to graze. Kafue Flats, Zambia
© Martin Harvey / WWF

Everglades (USA)

The Everglades is one of the world's only rain-fed flooded grasslands on limestone and North America's most extensive flooded grassland. This wetland  is one of nature's most efficient water treatment systems where plants filter pollutants out of the slow-moving water, delivering cleaner water to the Florida Bay, the Florida Keys, and nearby coral reefs.
Everglades National Park. Pond and white ibis, Florida, United States of America
© Martin Harvey / WWF
Alligator, Everglades National Park, USA
© Amir Sadeh

Lower Danube and Danube Delta (Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine)

This area boasts the largest reed bed in the world. It also attracts the largest colony of pelicans outside Africa. The Danube delta hosts over 300 species of birds as well as 45 freshwater fish species in its numerous lakes and marshes.
Belene Islands Complex is a part of the largest island group along the Bulgarian part of the Danube River and covers total 1715 hectares. The protected areas keep both the only wetlands in an island in Bulgaria and the largest flooded island forests along the Bulgarian part of the Danube River. Bulgaria
© Anton Vorauer / WWF
Watch video: Danube Delta
Danube Floodplain National Park / Austria
© WWF-Austria/P.Huber

Sundarbans (Bangladesh)

The Sundarbans is the largest mangrove forest in the world. Sundarbans means 'beautiful forests', but the region may also have been named after the large number of Sundari trees that grow in the salty coastal waters. This area is definitely fit for royalty as it is home to possibly the largest population of Royal Bengal tigers in the world.
A group of fishermen in their boat in the Sundarbans National Park, Bangladesh.
© David Woodfall / WWF-UK
A female Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) resting in the undergrowth of a mangrove forest in the Southeast Sundarbans, Khulna Province, Bangladesh.
© Laman / WWF

WWF's work

WWF works in many areas of the world to preserve the Earth’s wetlands. Projects focus on protection of these unique habitats, restoration of healthy river systems and the sustainable use of natural resources.

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