Pantanal wetland fires threaten jaguars in Brazil

Jaguar in a tree, photo: Bibake Uppal on Unsplash
Jaguar in a tree, photo: Bibake Uppal on Unsplash

Fires raging in the Pantanal area in Brazil are threatening the nature reserve Encontro das Águas State Park, home to the world’s largest jaguar population, Brazilian authorities said Tuesday.

“The military firefighting corps sent two teams of reinforcements today to fight the fire,” the government of the state of Mato Grosso said in a statement. “They join the 46 men already on the ground fighting the fires.”

The Pantanal area is located at the southern edge of the Amazon rainforest and stretches from Brazil into Paraguay and Bolivia. It’s the biggest tropical wetlands on Earth.

The area is known for its immense biodiversity, including its jaguars, a species listed as “near threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

It has been hit by record fires this year. There have already been more fires in the Brazilian Pantanal this year than in all of 2018 and 2019 combined, according to satellite data collected by Brazil’s national space agency INPE.

In July, satellites detected 1,684 fires in the region, more than triple the number in July 2019 and the worst month on record since INPE began tracking in 1998.

Brazil is also struggling to fight surging fires in the Amazon. The number of fires in the rainforest last month was the second-highest in a decade for August, at 29,307.

Experts say most of the fires are set intentionally, typically by farmers and ranchers clearing land.

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