There have been more than 15,000 fires in Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands so far this year, causing widespread devastation. That is triple the number recorded in the same period in 2019, according to data collected by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (Inpe).
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The wetlands is one of the world’s most bio-diverse areas.
In total 15,756 fires have been detected in the region so far this year, compared with 5,109 recorded in the same period last year.
Brazil’s National Centre for the Prevention of Forest Fires (Prevfogo) calculates that 2.9m hectares of the Pantanal have burned so far in 2020.
A state of emergency has been declared in the states of Mato Grosso do Sul and Mato Grosso.
Environment Minister Ricardo Salles says the fires have spread to “gigantic proportions”.
Nevertheless, President Jair Bolsonaro said on Wednesday that the criticism levelled against his government over the fires in the Pantanal and also in the Amazon region had been “disproportionate”.
The basin, which thrives off annual flooding following torrential rains, is home to jaguars, piranhas, capuchin monkeys, green anacondas and thousands of plant species.
Forest fires often occur naturally in the dry season in Brazil but they are also deliberately started by ranchers trying to clear land for cattle.
Experts say it is impossible to calculate yet how many animals have been killed by the fires, but losses are feared to be huge.