Wildlife in peril as Brazil wetlands burn | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 19, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:38 AM, September 19, 2020

Wildlife in peril as Brazil wetlands burn

Wildlife guide Eduarda Fernandes steers a speedboat up the Piquiri river in western Brazil, scanning the horizon for jaguars wounded in the wildfires ripping through the Pantanal, the world's biggest tropical wetlands. 

Fernandes, 20, is part of a team of volunteers working to find and rescue jaguars wounded by the record-breaking blazes, which have burned through nearly 12 percent of the Pantanal.

"Our goal is to reduce the impact of the fires as much as we can, by leaving food and water for the animals and rescuing the wounded ones," she said.

The state park where she and her team are working, Encontro das Aguas, is known for having the largest jaguar population on Earth. In normal times, it is home to at least 150 jaguars, a species classified as "near threatened" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature because of its declining numbers.

But now the fires have burned through 85 percent of the 270,000-acre park, and many of the jaguars have disappeared.

No one knows if they are dead, wounded or have fled elsewhere.

After a two hours searching by boat, the team finds a male jaguar resting on the river bank beneath a tree hanging with vines, his spots standing out against a pile of leaves left dry by the region's worst drought in decades.

Having traveled from Sao Paulo to volunteer here, Veterinarian Luciana Guimaraes is trying to hold onto hope.

"Nature has a great capacity for recovery, even in a situation like this, where everything seems to have burned," she said.

"But it can take a very long time."

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