World’s largest tropical wetland ablaze: our statement

This year, the Pantanal – the world’s largest tropical wetland – has seen three times as many fires as 2019, exacerbated by climate change and likely started by humans. The BirdLife Partnership is calling on the Brazilian and international governments to urgently increase action.


Last summer, the news of the burning Amazon rainforest captured mass media attention and sparked worldwide outcry. But the worrying truth is that these fires never completely went out. In fact, this year, it seems that the whole of the Americas are ablaze. In California, huge wildfires are turning San Francisco’s skies an apocalyptic orange. In South America’s Southern Cone, the Dry Chaco forests and iconic Pampas grasslands are going up in smoke.


Worst of all, 2020 has seen catastrophic fires in the Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland, located mostly within Brazil but extending into parts of Bolivia and Paraguay. Spanning 210,000 square kilometres – larger than the whole of Great Britain – this verdant, incredibly biodiverse ecosystem is home to the largest aggregation of wildlife in South America, including rare species such as the Giant River Otter (Endangered), Jaguar (Near Threatened) and Hyacinth Macaw Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus (Vulnerable). From 1 January to 23 July, Brazil’s national space agency counted 3,682 fires in the Pantanal – three times greater than last year, and the highest number since records began in 1998. In total, 12,000 square kilometres have been devastated so far, and the number is still rising.


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