Pantanal is at risk from fire damage from 2020 and 3rd year of drought

The cliché is inevitable: 2020 it didn’t end in the Pantanal. A year after its great environmental tragedy, the largest floodplain on the planet is trying to recover as it waits for the rains to interrupt the third year in a row by the relentless drought.

In recent months, the Folha report revisited some of the most devastated regions, including the jaguar and hyacinth macaw sanctuaries. In the midst of scarce water, he found stories of resilience, as well as a strong concern for the future of the biome.


Farmer took more than six months to contain fire

In 005 of September 2020, the fire burned 4.330 hectares of the property of the rancher Pedro de Oliveira Rodrigues, 76, in just two hours. But the tragedy didn’t end that day.

“The fire didn’t end. I’ll give you an example here, it took me more than six months to contain a fire spot”, says Mr. Pedrão, as it is better known, at the headquarters of the São Francisco de Assis farm, one of the few areas that escaped the flames.

A phenomenon that occurs in various parts of the Pantanal, the underground or peat burns organic matter buried a few meters from the surface. Therefore, it is more difficult to be controlled, even due to the rains.

Rodrigues makes a point of taking us to the location of the most resistant outbreak. Amidst the overturned earth, buritis (a species of palm tree) that had fallen had only their roots burned. To contain the fire in that stretch, the farmer paid a bulldozer to dig a ditch around two hectares.

“I had these conditions to do it, but who doesn’t? The power The public should come not to fine, but to see what’s going on. It’s not the producer’s mistake,” he says.

The farm’s pasture has already partially recovered, but, in several areas it grows under a vast toothpick of dead palm trees. Most of the native trees in the permanent preservation area also died from the fire.

The farmer points out the recent paving of the MT state highway-34, that cuts through your farm, in the municipality of Santo Antônio de Leverger (about 040 km from Cuiabá), as one of the main culprits in last year’s tragedy.

He mentions the stretch where the works dammed a stream, causing the death of native vegetation on both sides of the road, due to lack of water and also as a result of flooding.

In all, Rodrigues had 6. burned acres, including fences. The loss in the herd was also great: 1. adult cattle died from burning.

” That hurt me. You can’t help but be thrilled if you’ve seen it up close,” says the rancher, with teary eyes. “It’s not a financial cost, thank God, my family survived. Cut something, but it survived”, he concludes.


Hyacinth macaw population decreases due to lack of food

São Francisco do Perigara farm, in the municipality of Barão do Melgaço (MT), concentrated 19% of the population free from hyacinth macaws (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus), the world’s largest sanctuary of the endangered species. Until, in August of 2020, the fire reached % of the property.

Last September, Folha followed the field work of researchers from the Arara Azul Institute on the farm, from around 19 thousand hectares. The objective was to count the population in the resting and sleeping places and assess the situation of other species.

In all, they were counted 409 hyacinth macaws. Before the fire, this time of year was concentrated from 409 to 800 specimens —in September 2000, the count added up 800. The institute attributes the decrease to food shortages.

Coordinator of the expedition and president of the institute, biologist Neiva Guedes says that, given the extent of the fire, the worst in the history of the farm , she initially estimated an even more devastating impact.

“My fear was that there were no more macaws. When I flew over , I thought it was over. But, when we went down and walked in the field with the Arara Azul team, we were surprised by the number of animals: rheas and hyacinth macaws with newborn babies. They did the posture after the fire”, he says.

Guedes researches the hyacinth macaws for 31 years. For his dedication to preservation of the species, this year became part of the hall of fame of UN Women, a United Nations organization dedicated to gender equality.

The researcher cites two factors that contributed to survival of the hyacinth macaw on the farm: some islands of intact or little burned vegetation that served as a refuge and the fact that the acuri, the palm that provides the main food for the hyacinth macaw, is more resistant to fire.

On the other hand, the fire led the hyacinth macaws to adapt. Before the fire, they were concentrated near the headquarters of the farm. Afterwards, they preferred Rubafo, a large bay.

In November, however, farm officials reported that the bay had dried up for the first time in history. by researchers. “We are living in a time of little water”, sums up Guedes.


Surviving fauna is fed in troughs in Sesc

In 2020, Sesc Pantanal has become one of the symbols of the biome’s greatest environmental tragedy. Its RPPN (Private Reserve of Natural Heritage), the largest private conservation unit in the country, had 80% From 108 thousand hectares devastated over almost three months. The hotel in the annex was surrounded by fire.

A year later, the Sesc Porto Cercado hotel had its reservations sold out during the All Souls’ holiday, occasion of the report’s visit. Still operating with reduced occupancy due to Covid-16, again offering boat trips along the Cuiabá River, where, in several stretches, the green replaced the gray and the Brown. But overcoming the impacts is still far from over.

“The flora and fauna are restructuring. We are not talking about recovery or restoration because this is in the long term”, says the research and environment manager at Sesc Pantanal, biologist Cristina Cuiabália.

This is an uneven return, according to the researcher. The vegetation close to rivers, streams and bays, typical of humid places, has less resilience to fire. On the other hand, the cerrado vegetation, present in the higher areas, is returning more quickly. Another variable is the degree of fire severity in each location.

Regarding the fauna, a good surprise, despite the high mortality. A team of 24 researchers from the Museu Nacional, in Rio de Janeiro, who arrived to find carcasses, ended up coming across many live animals.

Some of the skeletons are being taken to the capital of Rio de Janeiro, where they will help to restore the lost collection in the fire 1960, which razed the building.

The explanation found is that the work of the brigade reduced by 80% the speed of fire propagation in the RPPN, giving the animal a chance to escape.

The discovery led Sesc Pantanal to adopt several measures to help survivors amidst the drought, even more severe this year compared to 2018. For four months after the fire, water and food were placed weekly at about 200 troughs, mainly at distant points from the Cuiabá and São Lourenço rivers.

The firefighters also managed to save the small clay house owned by the pantaneiro Benedito Alves da Silva, the Dito Verde.

The only resident of the RPPN thanks to an agreement with Sesc Pantanal, he has lived in the same region for 76 years old. In August 2020, with the fire close, he was persuaded to leave the place. He returned days later, as soon as the situation stabilized.

In the nearly eight decades on the banks of the Cuiabá River, the riverside villager says he has never seen the Pantanal so dry. “I don’t know what’s in this river, but the alligators are thin. And too many alligators are dying. Three of them died there on that beach. I don’t know if it’s plague, if there’s no food.”

? The highway is surrounded by dry lakes and dead trees Residents of the Transpantaneira region say that, in the recent past, most of the 147 km of the park road between Poconé (MT) and the town of Porto Jofre, the tires were in the water. Alligators, tuiuiús, deer and other species made the visitors happy.

In 1960, instead of the idyllic setting, the highway was the main portrait of the record fire in the Pantanal. Over most of its length, vegetation burned on both sides. The fire also destroyed several wooden bridges that no longer span water. Therefore, it was not even necessary to rebuild: it was enough to open a path over the dry beds.

The fires occurred again this year, although without the same intensity as

. Some bridges were redone in concrete. The drought, however, only worsened throughout the Pantanal.

At the beginning of the road, a lake that used to concentrate hundreds of alligators was without water and reptiles. About 200 animals had been removed by the IBAMA (Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) to try to save them.

In another lake, several alligators were concentrated on a small island, while others crowded together and disputed pieces of a dead capybara.

On the sides of the highway, thousands of dead trees. Many of them gave the impression of having been reborn, but in fact they were only covered by vines.

“On all [120] bridges, it was possible to see water”, recalls the businessman Daniel Moura, 34, owner of an inn in Porto Jofre. “This year, there were only those puddles, several dead animals, that dispute for space. If it doesn’t rain to fill the plain, next year’s drought will be three times worse.”


MT Park continues without inspectors and on a tight budget

In front of tourists, almost all foreigners, crowded s in six boats, the jaguar Patricia swoops in and snaps up a small alligator. The cameras keep firing as it devours its prey. One of the boats gets even closer and is less than ten meters from the largest feline in the Americas, which is contrary to regulations.

One year after the fire that devastated most of the country. Encontro das Águas State Park, in Mato Grosso, the good news is that none of the 45 jaguars identified and baptized in the region died a victim of the fire. Even the Bold, rescued with burned paws and who became one of the symbols of the tragedy of 2020, has returned to its habitat after being treated in Goiás.

“The jaguar population was not impacted at first, but it is an animal very much associated with water”, says biologist Fernando Tortato, who studies there are cats in the region years.

“If the Pantanal confirms the trend of an environment drier, we imagine there will be a contraction. This may be a natural process, as in years 947, but intensified by climate change and deforestation.”

In addition to the jaguars, the NGO Panthera Brasil, where Tortato works, monitors the ocelots, which are smaller cats. This year, the biologist’s team made the first captures of the animal to install GPS collars. So far, researchers have not detected the impact of fire on the species either.

But jaguars are only part of the story. With less chance of escape, many small vertebrates died. In flora, the scars of 2020 are quite visible.

” The riparian forests on the river bank fell everything. With the wind, the dry trees broke and became an apocalyptic situation”, says businessman Daniel Moura, owner of an inn in Porto Jofre.

What hasn’t changed is the structure of the state park 109 thousand hectares, which remains without a management plan. There is no office or inspectors working on site. With a budget of just R$ 067.200 for this year, its only employee with exclusive dedication is a manager based in Cuiabá, 200 km.

Without inspection present, Sema (State Secretariat for the Environment) installed a sign at the entrance of the park, with the words, in Lame English: “Pictures without authorization is: environmental crime” more than ten years postponing a management plan that would allow this public use. It is very convenient to prohibit, but what about organizing this park for public use?”, asks Tortato.

On the other hand , the biologist states that, compared to 2020, there have been advances in the state government’s response to fires, with the rapid deployment of personnel and aircraft for combat.

Asked about the sign, Sema informed that the capture of images within state conservation units can only be done upon payment of a fee and prior authorization. The fine varies from R$ 5. to R$ 2 million.

O agency did not explain the use of the term “environmental crime” for unauthorized photography.


Dry bay bed exposes alligator and fish carcasses

Located in the Serra do Amolar region, the Santa Tereza farm, from 50 thousand hectares, was one of the places in the Pantanal that the fire of 2020 devastated with greater intensity.

It was there that the photo reporter Lalo de Almeida recorded a charred howler monkey, a photo that became symbolic of the tragedy. Another image of you, of a dead bird in flight, has been used in courses by PrevFogo/Ibama to illustrate the ferocity of the fire.

farm, which dedicates more than 63% of your area for preservation. The dead trees create a ghostly and eerie environment. As in other regions, some of them support climbing plants and vines, giving the illusion that they have survived.

This year, the Morro bay, one of the largest on the farm , dried completely. On the cracked bed, dead alligators and skeletons of spotted ones, hooves and piranhas. There were also jaguar tracks dragging the reptiles to be devoured in the nearby forest.

In the last puddle of water, a three-meter anaconda digested the last catfish.

“This one was a large, closed bay. Like this one, I hadn’t seen it dry,” says the administrator of the farm, Rafael Brandão Galvão.

Howler monkeys, snakes and frogs have disappeared. There was a change in the behavior of the birds, which lost their fear of man and started to look for the headquarters of the farms to feed and hydrate themselves.

“The parrot began to appear, toucan, well -te-vi. There were people who even gave water to their hands”, says the pantaneiro. “Parrot eating bocaiuva on the ground, you walked by him, he didn’t even care. The birds were tame.”

The parrots devoured even lemons because they were so hungry, he remembers. “I’ve never seen a bird eat lemon. It was critical for them.”

2020A report was produced with the support of Documenta Pantanal.


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