14 de setembro de 2020

Pantanal mundo afora.

Burned jaguars, fire tornadoes: Blazes in Brazil wetland deliver climate warning

POCONÉ, Brazil (Reuters) - A fire has been burning since mid-July in the remote wetlands of west-central Brazil, leaving in its wake a vast charred desolation bigger than New York City.

A dead caiman is pictured in an area that was burnt in a fire in the Pantanal, the world's largest wetland, in Pocone, Mato Grosso state, Brazil, August 31, 2020. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli

A team of veterinarians, biologists and local guides arrived in late August to prowl the bumpy dirt road known as the Trans-Pantanal Highway in pickup trucks, looking to save what injured animals they could.

Jaguars were wandering the blackened wasteland, they said, starving or going thirsty, with paws burnt to the bone, lungs blackened by smoke. They saw bodies of alligator-like caiman, jaws frozen in silent screams, the last act of creatures desperate to cool off before being consumed by flames.

This massive fire is one of thousands of blazes sweeping the Brazilian Pantanal - the world’s largest wetland - this year in what climate scientists fear could become a new normal, echoing the rise in climate-driven fires from California to Australia.

The Pantanal is smaller and less-known than its famous cousin, the Amazon jungle. But the region’s normally abundant waters and strategic location - sandwiched between the rainforest, Brazil’s vast grasslands and Paraguay’s dry forests - make it a magnet for animals.

The fires are now threatening one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, biologists say. The Pantanal is home to roughly 1,200 vertebrate animal species, including 36 that are threatened with extinction. Across this usually lush landscape of 150,000 square kilometers (57,915 square miles) in Brazil, rare birds flutter and the world’s densest population of jaguars roam.

Fire is not new here. For decades, ranchers have used flames to cheaply return nutrients to the soil and renew pasture for their beef cattle. But those blazes, fueled by drought, now burn with historic force, racing across desiccated vegetation. The biggest fires in the Pantanal this year are quadruple the size of the largest fire in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, NASA satellites show.

A record 23,490 square kilometers have burned through Sept. 6 - nearly 16% of the Brazilian Pantanal, according to a Federal University of Rio de Janeiro analysis.


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