Since the beginning of November, huge clouds of smoke have been billowing over the western Brazilian Pantanal wetlands, which are renowned for being a biodiversity paradise, as raging wildfires have reduced vast areas to scorched earth.
The Pantanal is home to the largest tropical wetlands in the world, as well as a thriving eco-tourism industry during normal times. It is known for its lush landscapes and vibrant wildlife, including jaguars, caimans.
However, as Brazil experiences a spring of extreme heat and droughts in the Southern Hemisphere, fires have recently ravaged the area, endangering its iconic wildlife.
According to satellite monitoring by the Brazilian space research agency INPE, there were 2, 387 fires in the Pantanal during the first 13 days of November, an increase of more than 1,000% from November of last year.
“The situation has completely gotten out of hand.” According to biologist Gustavo Figueiroa, 31, leader of the environmental organization SOS Pantanal, the heatwave and wind will only make things worse.
“Fires are common in the Pantanal region.” It normally regenerates on its own. But it’s unusual to have so many fires.
This year’s drought has had a significant impact, turning previously flooded areas into shriveled ponds.
A small group of caimans can be seen attempting to swim in the shallow water at one such location along the 150km (93-mile) Transpantaneira dirt road that crosses the area.
Another’s corpse is nearby, rotting on the bank.
In another area, a dead porcupine is lying on an ashy carpet among the burned-out remains of an old forest.
According to veterinarian Aracelli Hammann, who is volunteering with a wildlife rescue organization, “It probably died of smoke inhalation.”
The largest jaguar population in the world can be found in Encontro das Aguas park, where they made their grim discovery.