A blaze has torched in recent days thousands of hectares of the Paraguayan Pantanal Reserve Complex, with World Land Trust (WLT) partner Guyra Paraguay warning fire spots are increasing at a time of drought and a COVID-driven increase of wildlife poaching.
According to Guyra, the latest fire has come to engulf 4,000-plus hectares of the Pantanal conservation area, razing the home of Giant Anteater, Giant Armadillo, Giant Otter, Jaguar, Hyacinth Macaw, Crowned Eagle and many others.
Based on Guyra’s reports, one of the fire fronts reached a spot a mere 150 metres from the rangers at the Three Giants Biological Station, named after the aforementioned trio of endangered anteater, armadillo and otter species.
Our partner Guyra is monitoring active fire data both remotely and on site, with rangers working alongside their peers from Bolivia’s Otuquis National Park and Integrated Management Natural Area and the national navy staff stationed at Bahía Negra.
The fire outbreaks emerge as climatic drought grips the Paraguayan Pantanal, creating a breeding ground for out-of-control wildfires. In December 2019, a colossal blaze devastated the Guarani-run Ñembi Guasu reserve in a nearby strip of Gran Chaco in Bolivia, followed by another fire in Otuquis in March 2020.
The pulse with forest fires also comes at a time of surging COVID-19 cases all across Latin America. The pandemic is impacting both Guyra’s rangers – with biosafety protocols applied for all visitors – and the wildlife itself.
“Because of the pandemic conditions that strongly affected the local economy in Bahia Negra, the wildlife is more exposed to poachers than ever, increasing pressure on the protected areas of the area and affecting the populations of endangered species,” says Guyra’s Tatiana Galluppi Selich.
The plan is to dispatch seven firefighters and enlist a fire brigade of trained Bahía Negra locals, including the Yshir Nation indigenous communities represented by the UCINY union alongside EcoPantanal Association and WWF Paraguay and Bolivian partners.
The fire response is being overseen by Paraguay’s Minister of the National Emergency Secretariat Joaquín Roa Burgos, who recently dropped by the Three Giants station for an update.
The impact of climate change and COVID-19 has increased the pressure on the Pantanal’s endangered wildlife like never before. The combination of extended dry seasons and strong winds has brought flames to the home of jaguar, armadillo and many others, while the pandemic is bringing poachers into protected areas.
Scientists have warned the surge of fires in the Arctic and Amazon could extend elsewhere and this story illustrates the urgent threats to the reserves we support .
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