The whole world knows the Amazon, suffers and is moved by its devastation. Outside Brazil, however, few know of the existence of a biome that hosts a very rich diversity of world flora and fauna: the Pantanal.
Well, in recent weeks the Pantanal is burning and it is estimated that about 16% of its area has already been destroyed. Thousands of animals died charred. The main victims are snakes, crocodiles and other reptiles unable to escape the rapid advance of the fire; but many jaguars, symbolic animals of the Pantanal, and other mammals and birds are also dying.
The Pantanal is a steppe savannah, which – normally – lives two very distinct cycles throughout the year: it transforms into an alluvial area between November and April, with large flooded areas, and passes through a dry period between May and October. This alternation of climates makes it the ideal habitat for many animal species, many of which are on the verge of extinction.
But this alternation of floods and dryness in the last year did not happen, following a trend that has been in place for some time: the rainy period was very scarce, the water accumulated very little and the dryness that followed quickly dried up the soil, transforming the vegetation into highly flammable material.
According to environmental specialists, this change may have been caused by the warming of the Atlantic Ocean above the equator line, which decreases the humidity sent to South America and transforms it into strong hurricanes that go towards the north of the continent. This phenomenon (mirroring El Nino, which hits the Pacific Ocean every 6/7 years) naturally recurs every 30-40 years, but there is a risk that the ongoing climate changes alter its frequency and duration, with devastating effects. not only for the Pantanal but for the whole South American region.
Only 2.9% of the Pantanal area is protected as a natural park and in the region there are numerous fazendas that make a living from extensive livestock farming. The Pantanal is one of the most important tourist destinations in Brazil, due to its biodiversity and the possibility of seeing the numerous wild animals that populate it.
The practice of burning the lawns during the dry period, to renew the nutrients of the earth, is normal and allowed if done in a controlled manner. The federal police is investigating five large landowners located in the Corumbà area (Mato Grosso do Sul) to verify whether there was arson in causing the fire to increase the area dedicated to livestock farming (as seems to be demonstrated by satellite images).
On September 14, the federal government finally recognized a state of emergency in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, where most of the Pantanal territory is concentrated.
In addition to allowing greater agility in sending and organizing aid, it will allow for a more articulated intervention by environmental organizations and volunteers in general.
In a territory larger than that of Uruguay, fewer than 200 firefighters are permanently present, in addition to a few men and vehicles sent by the government.
In this context, the Bolsonaro government is drastically cutting the budget allocated to IBAMA and ICMBio, the two federal bodies responsible for the preservation and conservation of biomes and to combat environmental crimes.
Compared to the last year of the Temer government (2018), the reduction was drastic, between 25 and 40% depending on the various bodies.
This government has demonstrated from the outset that it considers Brazil’s natural heritage as a resource to be exploited more intensively in economic terms and not as a wealth to be protected and preserved. The results, despite the short time in government, are there for all to see: deforestation, fires, occupation of indigenous lands, illegal extraction of precious metals and so on.
Amazonia, Pantanal, Cerrado, Caatinga, Mata Atlântica .... let's keep our guard up to protect and preserve these important Brazilian biomes.