‘Out of control’ fires kill wildlife in Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands | Environmental News
Huge clouds of smoke have been billowing over them since early November as wildfires reduce large areas to scorched earth in the Pantanal wetlands in western Brazil – known as a biodiversity paradise.
Famous for its lush landscapes and vibrant wildlife, including jaguars, caimans, macaws and monkeys, the Pantanal is home to the largest tropical wetland in the world and, in the normal times, a thriving ecotourism industry.
But in recent weeks, it has been ravaged by fires that threaten its iconic wildlife as Brazil suffers through a spring of drought in the Southern Hemisphere and recording heat.
There were 2,387 fires in the Pantanal in the first 13 days of November, an increase of more than 1,000 percent from the entire month of November last year, according to a satellite survey by the Brazilian space research agency INPE.
“The situation is completely out of control. And between the heat and the wind, it’s not going to get worse,” said biologist Gustavo Figueiroa, 31, head of the environmental group SOS Pantanal.
“The Pantanal is an area that is used to fires. Usually, it regenerates naturally. But this number of fires is not normal. “
It has been hit hard by drought this year, with mostly flooded areas reduced to shrinking ponds.
At one such spot on the dirt highway across the region, the 150km (93-mile) Transpantaneira, a small group of caimans can be seen trying to swim in the shallow water.
Nearby, the body of another man sits rotting on the bank.
Elsewhere, a dead porcupine lies on a carpet of ashes in the remains of what was once a forest.
“He probably died of smoke inhalation,” said veterinarian Aracelli Hammann, who volunteers with a wildlife rescue group.
They made the grim discovery in the Encontro das Aguas park, home to the largest jaguar population in the world.
Almost a third of the park has been hit by fires in the past month, according to the environmental group ICV.