Once again, heavy fires are raging in Brazil, this time spreading across a swamp area of almost 50,000 hectares. The species-rich ecosystem is the habitat for hundreds of fish and bird species. The state government describes the situation as "critical."
In Brazil's Pantanal, the world's largest wetland, the worst fires have been blazing for years. The situation in the species-rich wetland is "critical", warned the government of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. Almost 50,000 hectares are affected.
According to the Brazilian Institute for Space Research (Inpe), satellite images of the Pantanal have recorded 8,479 fires since the beginning of the year – the highest number in twelve years. In October alone there were 2427 fires – more than 20 times as much as in the same month last year, when only 120 fires were counted. The situation was worse only in October 2002, when 2761 fires were registered.
The Pantanal also extends to the state of Mato Grosso and its neighboring countries Bolivia and Paraguay. There are 500 species of birds and 260 species of fish in the species-rich ecosystem, as well as many mammals and aquatic plants.
Wind and dry vegetation accelerate the spread of the flames, a state spokesman said said. Also affected are the three villages Corumbá, Miranda and Aquidauana, through which tourists come to the Pantanal. So far, only about two dozen firefighters and employees of the Brazilian environmental authority Ibama fight against the flames. Mato Grosso do Sul therefore called for the help of the government in Brasília.
In August and September devastating forest fires had already raged in the Brazilian Amazon. President Jair Bolsonaro was accused of not doing enough to stop the fires. The ultra-right leader is closely associated with the Brazilian agrarian lobby and doubts man-made climate change.