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Saving Wildlife: From Houston to the Pantanal

Five wandering Texans arrive in Brazil.

Day Two: Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019 

We landed at the airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil this morning where we immediately got lost as we tried to navigate to our luggage, through customs, and to a different terminal. Fortunately, we had plenty of time between flights.  Coffee, lunch, wandering about, and sitting around filled several hours. Not much to write home about. 

Nearly a full day after we began traveling, we boarded another jet for Campo Grande – a city where we were set to spend the night.

(pic of three planes)

The sunset flight above a soft blanket of clouds was beautiful.

The airport in Campo Grande is small.  You walk from the plane to the building housing baggage claim. It's a place which seems impossible for anyone or anything to get lost.  

But Andy's suitcase didn't make it to this simple and quiet airport. It was sitting back in bustling Sao Paulo, where he had been asked to check it at the gate.  

I snapped one pic of Andy heading to baggage claim JUST before we got the news his bag never made it to the Campo Grande conveyer belt. 

With the help of Peter Riger from the Houston Zoo and a Brazilian man who had been sent to pick us up, the airline assured Andy his bag would come on the very next flight.  (Just before bedtime, it arrived and was delivered to our hotel which certainly was a relief to Andy.)

We met one of the Zoo's conservation partners this evening for dinner.  Arnaud Desbiez will be with us the next few days. 

By tomorrow afternoon, we'll be with Arnaud in the Pantanal. Most nature programs have months at a time to gather animal footage. We have just six days.

Our goal is to see as many of the animals we're learning about as possible.  

The clock starts ticking early in the morning with a six-hour drive.  Arnaud says it's two hours on paved roads, two hours on dirt roads, and two hours on no roads. 

The adventure really begins tomorrow, so fique ligado (stay tuned.)

Friday, Sept. 27, 2019

It’s 10 p.m. in Houston and I'm starting to write from the plane sitting at Bush Intercontinental Airport.

A 10-hour flight is ahead of us and that's just the first leg of this journey. In the next nine days, we'll be on planes big and small. There will be cars and boats mixed in between.

Our final destination is a place where cowboys have worked family ranch land for generations and also is home to the largest tropical wetlands in the world.

The plane just lifted off and we're officially on our way to the Pantanal in Brazil. 

The saying “everything’s bigger in Texas" holds true until you visit this place; at least that's what I'm told and expect to see for myself soon.

The Pantanal itself is primarily in Brazil, but parts spill into two neighboring countries, Bolivia and Paraguay.

It's home to an incredibly diverse array of wildlife, many that have “giant" in their name. There are giant otters, giant anteaters, anacondas (super-sized snakes), capybaras (the world's largest rodent) and jaguars.

Jaguars, for the record, are only the third-largest cat species, but I'm fairly certain their size will still be impressive when we see them in the wild.

My traveling partners on this adventure from KPRC 2 are anchor Andy Cerota and photojournalist Allen Reid.

We're in good company with two members of the Houston Zoo team.

Once on the ground in Brazil, we’ll meet with people who are working every day to save wildlife in the region and whose efforts are supported by the Houston Zoo. It's a conservation partnership that benefits people and animals and we're grateful to be on this journey to share those stories.

For now, boa noite (that's good night in Portuguese) and até breve! (See you soon!).