Water is life in the Brazilian Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland. Tropical rains and seasonal floods turn grasslands into aquatic gardens, a time of plenty for local wildlife. But during the dry season, the water recedes and becomes scarce. Yacare caimans (Caiman yacare) congregate in huge numbers around ever-shrinking lagoons, hunting the few remaining fish and waiting for the rains to return. When Luciano Candisani first visited the Pantanal as a 15-year-old boy, the would-be photographer was mesmerized by the sight of the crocodiles’ eyes, glowing “like stars in a dark sky.” Back then, the stars were few—the species was close to extinction, due to ruthless hunting of the animals for their valuable hides. But with strict legal protections and good rains—perfect for prey abundance and breeding success—their numbers began to bounce back. Today, the Pantanal is home to as many as 10 million yacare caimans, the largest single crocodilian population in the world.

The Pantanal, Mato Grosso, Brazil

Luciano Candisani

Luciano Candisani began his career as a photographer of scientific expeditions while he was still a graduate student at São Paulo University. In his work, he strives to capture the world's vast wilderness areas and images that reveal the link between species and their environments. Candisani is a contributing photographer for National Geographic and is the author of seven photographic books, several exhibitions, workshops, and stories featured in a variety of publications.

bioGraphic is powered by the California Academy of Sciences, a renowned scientific and educational institution dedicated to exploring, explaining, and sustaining life on Earth.