Endangered designation requested for Pantanal wetlands in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay


GLAND, Switzerland– Conservation groups today sent an urgent letter to the Ramsar Convention Secretariat asking for a full assessment of the damage caused by recent fires in the Pantanal – the world’s largest tropical wetland – in Brazil, Bolivia and in Paraguay.

Today, World Wetlands Day, the groups have asked the secretariat to carry out an advisory mission to six Pantanal wetlands of international importance listed in the convention. They also called for the wetlands to be included in the Montreux Record, the official global list of threatened wetlands.

The request was sent by the Inter-American Association for the Defense of the Environment, the Center for Biological Diversity and Ecologia e Ação on the occasion of World Wetlands Day. The organizations also urged the three governments to implement urgent measures to preserve the Pantanal as a transboundary ecosystem.

The Ramsar sites targeted by the request are the Bolivian Pantanal, the Pantanal SESC Private Natural Heritage Reserve, the Fazenda Rio Negro Private Natural Heritage Reserve, the Pantanal Matogrossense National Park and the Taiamã Ecological Station in Brazil, as well as Rio Negro National Park. in Paraguay.

“A Ramsar designation at risk is crucial to tackling the huge and unprecedented Pantanal fires, which are now threatening Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay,” said Alejandro Olivera, senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Public policies that favor the expansion of agriculture and ranching and allow burning in the Pantanal have combined with limited cross-border collaboration to create a powder keg. Ecosystem-damaging fires will continue without stronger commitments to protect these critical wetland habitats.

In 2020, fires devastated 4.3 million hectares of the Pantanal region – the highest number since monitoring began in 1998; the number of fires burning in the region was 508% higher than average. That same year, fires burned 100% of the Brazilian Pantanal Matogrossense National Park. At least 10 million animals died in three months. Unusually large fires continued into July 2021.

“We call on states to respect the obligations acquired before the convention, by generating coherent mechanisms and implementing policies and standards to protect the Pantanal,” said Claudia Velarde, lawyer at the Inter-American Association for the Defense of the environment. “An advisory mission to the six Ramsar sites could provide expert assistance to the Brazilian, Bolivian and Paraguayan governments to overcome the conditions that generate risks for the conservation and wise use of this key wetland.

The inclusion of sites in the Montreux Register can translate into economic aid, support and technical advice, for the enhancement of the Pantanal in the three countries.

“We are sending an urgent alert to Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay to focus on the Pantanal as the largest transboundary freshwater wetland in the world,” said Andre Siqueira, President and CEO of Ecology and Acão. “The Ramsar Convention cannot achieve its objectives if the ecosystems it protects are severely damaged by the continued use of fire, agro-industry and the lack of adequate resources to fight fires.”

The biodiversity and ecological richness of the Pantanal are incalculable. At least 3,500 species of plants, about 600 birds, 150 mammals, 175 reptiles, 40 amphibians, and 300 freshwater fish inhabit the biome. Many are in danger of extinction in other regions: these include the tuyuyú and the jaguar, the swamp deer, the giant otter and the macaw, which are all emblematic species of the region. The Pantanal is home to the highest concentration of certain animal species, such as the jaguar and the caiman.


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