The Caatinga is a semi-arid scrub forest situated in the northeast of Brazil. It is extremely rich in natural resources but when compared to the rainforests there is little available information on its biodiversity.

The Caatinga is so altered that only a few ecologically important examples of natural habitat remain. The most amazing fact is the Caatinga is unique to Brazil yet only 1% of its habitats are protected.

  • The Caatinga is home to almost 28 million people, most of them is living in poverty, relying on nature to survive.
  • It is the most populated semi-arid region in the world.
  • The region is one the most threatened Brazilian natural landscapes and some areas within the Caatinga are suffering from desertification.

The Caatinga occupies 11% of the Brazilian territory stretching across 300,000 square miles of the subequatorial zone. 

Major Habitat Type

Deserts Xeric Shrub


Animal life in the Caatinga has been adversely affected by hunting and human occupation. Many species have become extinct locally, while others, such as the three-banded armadillo, collared anteater, jaguar and robust tufted capuchin endure in reduced numbers.

Why the Conservancy works here

Rudimentary agriculture and the intense use of natural resources have increased degradation of the land. The Conservancy is the only international conservation organization currently working in the Caatinga, benefiting the 15 million people who live there.

What the Conservancy is doing

The Nature Conservancy is working with partners to guarantee large scale conservation in the region, using two main strategies.

  • Provide technical and finance support to government (federal and sub-national) create and consolidate public protect areas.
  • Encourage the creation of a private reserve.
New natural monument in rare Caatinga habitat

The Conservancy invested in technical studies that equipped Brazil’s Ministry of Environment with key tools for creating the new 66,000-acre (26,715-hectare) São Francisco Natural Monument in the Caatinga. The new reserve safeguards parts of the São Francisco River and its canyons, which play a crucial role in maintaining the scarce water resources needed by communities who inhabit the harsh landscape.

  • The Conservancy and Brazil’s government signed an agreement to create 20 protected areas in the Caatinga by 2014.
  • In 2009, the Conservancy’s investment and participation in the Caatinga Alliance spurred the creation of 16 new private reserves spanning 44,000 acres (18,000 hectares) across the Caatinga habitat.
  • In November of 2008, the Conservancy released two publications in Portuguese about the Caatinga, including a study on current knowledge and recent ecological discoveries in the Caatinga.
  • In the late 1990s the Conservancy supported the creation of Associação Caatinga, a partner organization based in the state of Ceará, and the creation of Serra das Almas Private Reserve, now managed by Associação Caatinga.


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