White-winged swallow, night heron, little blue heron, blue land crab, mangrove tree crab, mojarra, horse-eye jack, sawfish, mullet, iguana, tegus, capybara, agouti and even animals that were on the extinction list, like otters, and the broad-snouted cayman. The list is huge. Those who look at the Capibaribe can’t imagine the faunistic diversity that inhabits the area over 30 km from Várzea to downtown Recife, defying all the trash and untreated sewage thrown directly into the river. During a study done by biologists from UFPE and UFRPE, 7 species of reptiles, 9 mammals, 10 crustaceans and molluscs, 24 fish and 40 birds were identified. The study is one part of the Parque Capibaribe – Caminho das Capivaras project, a corridor for pedestrians and cyclists on the banks of the Capibaribe, which brings together parks, plazas and public facilities.
Even with vast experience in the area of animal biology, UFRPE professor Adélia Oliveira says she was surprised during expeditions. “It was a surprise for all of us. We didn’t imagine the fauns that we have would be so diverse. Especially because other studies show the Capibaribe estatuary, when compared to other Brazilian rivers or even within Pernambuco, show a low level of faunistic richness. What we saw goes against what has been shown”, affirms the professor, who spent three months doing the study, when she saw rarities such as the blue heron and the broad-snouted cayman, along the entire river.
Along the way, researchers had pleasant surprises. Among them the birth of capybaras inside a manhole, near Parque de Santana, in the capital’s north zone. “It was something that left us amazed. It’s really interesting to see the resillience these animals have, even within the conditions present in the Capibaribe”, she said. Considered the biggest rodent in the world, capybaras are what gave the river its name. From Tupi, Capibaribe means “River of Capybaras”.
Among the 21 neighborhoods mapped during the expedition, the specialist highlights that Várzea and Caxangá concentrate the largest diversity of animals, largely mammals, birds and fish. The explanation is simple: in these areas there’s a larger concentration of vegetation cover on the banks of the Capibaribe, the so-called riparian forests. Aside from this, the level of salinity in these areas is almost zero. “Riparian foresting, fairly abundant, is a nursery for reproducing,” she explains. In Adélia’s view, the fact this region possesses a larger richness of animals only reinforces the question that the area needs to be given more attention by the community and government. “The areas around Várzea and Caxangá, mainly, have to be studied carefully. Mostly because the ubanizaiton process has yet to arrive there, thus, it’s important to preserve it. The survival of the Capibaribe and its fauns also depend on us”, she pleas.
Thanks to the effort of movements like the NGO Recapibaribe, headed for 20 years by the couple André and Socorro Cantanhede, the river can breathe a little more and manages to find the dignity of the poems dedicated to it. As a means of stimulating the “hunt” for trash each year, in August, the NGO gathers together close to 40 fishermen that, in a true marathon, start from the Capibar, in Apipucos, in the north zone, continuing on to the Departmento de Remo do Sport, on the island of Retiro, in the west zone, gathering all the trash found along the way: tires, old TVs and computers, plastic bottles, buckets and even toilets. The action, called “Há Gosto pro Capibaribe”, collected three tons of rubbish last August. “The Capibaribe streches through 42 cities and is the way many people make a living. We can’t let this beautiful postcard die”, alerts Socorro Cantanhede.