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Canada Wetlands are burning: Worst fire season in a decade threatens Brazil's Pantanal

11:49  18 september  2020
11:49  18 september  2020 Source:   cbc.ca

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The Pantanal wetland – home to the hyacinth macaw – is suffering its worst blazes in decades , most probably started by humans. The Pantanal , a vast tropical wetland straddling Brazil ’ s border with Bolivia and Paraguay, is currently suffering its worst fires in more than two decades , with nearly 12

Wetlands are burning : Worst fire season in a decade threatens Brazil ' s Pantanal CBC.ca09:19. COVID-19 claims over 1,000 lives in Brazil , Mexico Brazil ' s Pantanal , the world's largest wetland , is on fire The Globe and Mail13:28 17-Sep-20. Brazil : Schools reopen in Rio de Janeiro amid legal

Firefighters work to put out a wildfire in the Porto Jofre region in the Pantanal wetlands in Mato Grosso state, Brazil, on Monday. Out-of-control fires are destroying vast areas of vegetation and killing wildlife, putting one of the world's most diverse ecosystems in jeopardy. © Mauro Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images Firefighters work to put out a wildfire in the Porto Jofre region in the Pantanal wetlands in Mato Grosso state, Brazil, on Monday. Out-of-control fires are destroying vast areas of vegetation and killing wildlife, putting one of the world's most diverse ecosystems in jeopardy.

The world's largest tropical wetland is not supposed to burn.

And yet, Brazil's Pantanal is on fire.

Thick smoke rises all around the village of Poconé as the wind whips it into little tornadoes. Fire crackles and races through the brush, jumping from forest to pasture to swamp.

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A huge wetland is burning in Brazil , and the fires are far bigger than California's. Wetlands are burning : Worst fire season in a decade threatens Brazil ' s Pantanal .

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The flames have destroyed some 25,000 square kilometres— roughly four times the area that has burned in California in 2020 so far.

A UNESCO heritage site and one of the world's most diverse ecosystems — home to dozens of endangered species and the densest concentration of jaguars anywhere — is in jeopardy. Charred jaguar carcasses now litter the ground, along with burned alligator-like caimans and fallen birds.

a close up of a rock: A dead caiman is pictured in an area that was burnt in a fire in the Pantanal, the world's largest wetland, in Poconé, Mato Grosso state, Brazil, on Aug. 31. © Amanda Perobelli/Reuters A dead caiman is pictured in an area that was burnt in a fire in the Pantanal, the world's largest wetland, in Poconé, Mato Grosso state, Brazil, on Aug. 31.

Local ranchers struggle to survive. Traditionally, they use fire to revitalize and clear the land, but not on this scale or under such dry conditions.

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Brazil ' s Pantanal wetlands are on fire . While the world was shocked by the wildfires that ravaged the Amazon, few seem to have noticed the destruction of the world's largest tropical wetland area. Yet, the world media does not seem as interested in these fires as in those that ravaged the Amazon.

Brazil ' s other wild place -- the Pantanal . Although mostly in Brazil , the wetlands creep across the border into neighboring Paraguay and Bolivia While wildlife flourishes year-round in the Pantanal , the best time to view jaguars and other large mammals is the end of the dry season (July-September)

"It hasn't rained in three months, and we don't know if it will rain in September. I hope so," said Dorvalino Camargo, fanning himself with a straw hat after helping to beat back the flames. "Cattle are suffering. We are all suffering."

'I feel defeated'

Preservationists who have worked most of their lives to protect the area from loggers and poachers now face a new, much deadlier threat.

"We've never dealt with fire conditions so big, so severe," said Angelo Rabelo from his home in the Pantanal. "We're just not prepared to confront it."

WATCH | Fires rage through Brazil's Pantanal wetlands

Rabelo is a former police colonel who came to the region 37 years ago to stop illegal hunting, and stayed to start the environmental organization Instituto Homem Pantaneiro.

"I feel impotent and defeated," he said. "It's a deep pain."

Normally the Pantanal gets abundant moisture from the Amazon rainforest, showers spawned in the vast jungle to the north which feed wetlands throughout the heart of South America, not only in Brazil but also in Bolivia and Paraguay.

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Sep.13 -- LOOK: Fast-moving fires in Brazil ’ s Pantanal region are engulfing thousands of acres of ecologically sensitive lands, prompting local volunteers to evacuate jaguars and other endangered species from the area.

Sep.13 -- LOOK: Fast-moving fires in Brazil ’ s Pantanal region are engulfing thousands of acres of ecologically sensitive lands, prompting local volunteers to evacuate jaguars and other endangered species from the area. NOW PLAYING: World. Fires Threaten Brazil ’ s Pantanal Region.

But the Amazon itself is struggling with drought along with fire that experts have repeatedly linked to deforestation and human activity. More and more of the Amazon's wilderness has been taken over by land developers, illegal logging and expanded agriculture.

'Going to get worse'

"These fires, we have no idea where it's going to go, when it's going to stop, and as the dry season intensifies, it's just going to get worse," said Matt Finer from Amazon Conservation, a U.S.-based non-profit group that tracks fires in the rainforest through satellite images.

a close up of a map © Saša Petricic/CBC

Preliminary satellite images from Brazil's national space research agency INPE and from NASA suggest fires in this region hit a 10-year high in August.

Amazon Conservation counted an average of 53 major blazes per day in the first week of September, up from 18 per day in August.

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro has dismissed the problem.

"This story that the Amazon is going up in flames is a lie," he said last month. The president, who was elected on a promise to expedite development of the Amazon, last year fired the head of the INPE after the agency released data showing a significant rise in deforestation since Bolsonaro took office. He has blamed NGOs for stirring up trouble, and denounced foreign governments who have criticized Brazil for its handling of the emergency.

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"It also puts the individuals involved in the activity at risk of being hurt, or worse ," said Doyle. The videos sparked outrage when they surfaced on Instagram Wetlands are burning : Worst fire season in a decade threatens Brazil ' s Pantanal . CBC. Halton police charge two Toronto men in kidnapping

Pantanal wetlands during the dry season . County of Corumbá, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil . UNESCO World Nature Heritage site and Biosphere Reserve. Because about 80% of the wetlands are submerged during the wet season , the species here include aquatic ones, making it an even more

In a speech to other South American leaders in August, Bolsonaro challenged foreign representatives to fly over the Amazon, saying that travelling by air from the far-flung cities of Boa Vista to Manaus, one would not see a single flame.

This despite the fact that his own government agencies — including INPE — have confirmed the widespread fires.

Effects will last 'for decades'

And things are only going to get worse, predicts biologist Philip Fearnside, because of continuing deforestation. He's lived in the Amazon for more than four decades, working at the National Institute for Research in Amazonia in Manaus.

He said he's seen an area "larger than France" deforested since he's been studying the implications.

"A lot of what the government is doing is encouraging [deforestation]," he said. "You have highways that are being built, roads that open up these new areas. And then people move in. You have this process of land being invaded.

The damage is likely to far outlast Bolsonaro's presidency.

"It's something that lasts for decades, not a problem that ends at the end of one presidential administration," Fearnside said.

In the wildlife-rich areas of the Pantanal, that will continue to make survival precarious.

a man standing in front of a tree: A ranch worker looks out at smoke from a fire, rising into the air, in the Pantanal, on Aug. 29. © Amanda Perobelli/Reuters A ranch worker looks out at smoke from a fire, rising into the air, in the Pantanal, on Aug. 29.

Eduarda Fernandes is a nature guide who had been working with veterinarians trying to rescue injured animals from the wetlands, including jaguars with paws "burnt to the bone."

Opinion: Bolsonaro likes himself as a deniers of reality

 Opinion: Bolsonaro likes himself as a deniers of reality At the opening of the UN General Assembly, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro declares his country the victim of a campaign of lies about the Amazon. But the pictures of the fires speak for themselves, comments Thomas Milz. © UNTV / AP Photo / picture-alliance Provided by Deutsche Welle In the UN it is tradition that Brazil is the first country to contribute to the debates of the General Assembly.

She says there isn't much visible life in the area, no "ants or crabs" — which serve as food for different types of animals.

"Animals will die not only due to the fires but also due to dehydration and hunger," she said. "It's very sad to see what is happening here."


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