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Pantanal: world's biggest wetland is on fire

The worst fires ever recorded in the wetlands of west-central Brazil is threatening one of the most bio-diverse ecosystems on the planet.

 

It is with deep sadness and with my heartbroken that I write this blog today. Another colossal fire is destroying such a beautiful and bio-diverse piece of Brazil. According to NASA satellites, these fires are quadruple the size of the largest fire in Brazil's Amazon rain-forest last year.

What is the Pantanal?

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

At more than 42 million acres, the Pantanal is the largest tropical wetland in the world and also home to roughly 1,200 vertebrate animal species, including 36 that are threatened of extinction like the rare Blue Arara and the beautiful jaguar. The area is actually bigger than larger than England, Austria, Hungary, Greece, and Ireland.

Wetlands are incredibly important for climate change management, not only are they are incredible natural water store but they are super important for "sinking carbon". They naturally absorb carbon from the atmosphere and through the process of photosynthesis store it as vegetation, a natural greenhouse gas cleanser.  

Unfortunately, only 5% of Pantanal is protected. Around 95% of the Pantanal is under private ownership, the majority of which is used for cattle grazing. 

So, what is happening right now?

The Pantanal is known for being wet, not dry. The world's largest flood plain typically fills with several feet of water during the rainy season from around November to April each year. This year, the floods never came.

Fire is not unusual in Pantanal because - surprise, surprise - of farmers. They set the soil on fire to cheaply return the nutrients and renew pasture for their beef cattle. But those blazes, fueled by drought, now burn with historical force, racing across desiccated vegetation.



According to climate scientists, the drought in Pantanal could become the new normal. Changing ocean temperatures - due to Global Warming - are "a likely driver of the dry conditions we've seen so far this year in the Pantanal," according to Morton, who leads NASA's biospheric sciences lab.



As I watched the news this morning my eyes were filled with tears, I saw a group of veterinarians, biologists and volunteers in pick-up trucks, looking to save injured animals. Jaguars were wandering the blackened wasteland, they said, starving or going thirsty, with paws burned to the bone, lungs blackened by smoke. I was looking at the footage of an alligator with jaws frozen in a silent scream like it was the last desperate act to cool off before being consumed by flames.



As I was feeling angry, disheartened and helpless, I started to research charities that are actually making a difference in the region - we can't ever count on Brazillian authorities, unfortunately.

Would you like to help?


There is a competent and honest charity called AMPARA that is doing an incredible job rescuing and rehabilitating the animals. If you would like to donate money to support their work, go to: http://produtos.amparanimal.org.br/pantanal-is-burning-campaign-ampara-silvestre

"In an attempt to minimize the suffering of rescued animals, several groups are working tirelessly in the region.
A task force coordinated by the “Pantanal's Fire Committee”, a body that brings together various government institutions, NGOs and the private sector, has built and it is operating an "Emergency Rescue and Treatment Center” named PAEAS Pantanal. However, it needs financial support to fund its entire operation (supplies such as medication, rescue equipment and veterinary use, vehicles for rescue, feeding animals in rehabilitation, among others)."

The feeling of helplessness is so real right now. Still, I am trying to fight it by writing this blog to spread the awareness about Pantanal, donating to the cause, trying to stay even more committed in my sustainability journey and making sure in the next election I vote for politicians with a pro-environment agenda.

With love,

Maria


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