Brazil to stop tracking deforestation in the Cerrado

A small armadillo on black surface, the picture is taken from above
A dead armadillo at a burned area of the Amazon jungle, Brazil, August 17, 2020, photo: Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino

The Brazilian government has decided to stop monitoring deforestation in the Cerrado, a tropical savanna where 5% of the world’s species live, researchers said on Thursday.  

Due to lack of funding, the decision was made not to continue monitoring the Cerrado, said Claudio Almeida, who coordinates satellite monitoring at Brazil’s national institute for space research, the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE).

If INPE is unable to find new funding sources, it won’t be able to provide annual figures for deforestation in the Cerrado, Almeida said. A small team will continue producing monthly deforestation figures for the Cerrado, but there will be no more money in six months, he added.

Brazil is one of the world’s leading producers of soy beans, a crop used to feed animals in intensive, indoor farm factories. 

To be able to grow soy beans, which has become a lucrative trade, companies are burning down parts of the Cerrado. In 2020, INPE counted almost 223,000 fires, which killed and severely harmed animals.

Joao Almeida, World Animal Protection (WAP) Brazil director, said his team had seen baby deer with their legs burned, monkeys and jaguars completely carbonized, and other animals with burned paws, completely dehydrated or starving.

The head of the environmental group Climate Observatory, Marcio Astrini, said he hoped the government would find funds because monitoring deforestation in the area is essential. “The monitoring shows whether deforestation is progressing,” he said.

But he added he was not optimistic because the president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, has attacked INPE in the past, accusing the agency of lying about data showing increasing deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

Scientists expressed concern earlier this week over the growing destruction of the Cerrado, saying it resulted in massive greenhouse gas emissions and threatened to drive animals to extinction.

It is estimated that only about 432,814 km2, or 21.3% of the original vegetation of the Cerrado, remains intact today. Even though the area is the most biodiverse savanna in the world, only 1.5% of the Cerrado is protected by the government.

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