Almost Half of the Jaguar Population Affected by Pantanal Fires

Destruction of areas can kill animals or prevent them from finding mates to breed

São Carlos (SP)

Almost half of the Pantanal's jaguar population was directly affected by the fires that devastated the region in 2020, according to a study by Brazilian scientists. The impact may have been even greater in the Pantanal environmental reserves where Brazil's largest carnivore lives.

The calculations are worrying because Pantanal is one of the last great refuges of the species in the country, next to the Amazon – in other Brazilian ecosystems, populations of jaguars are rarely found. In addition to the deaths of big cats caused directly by fire, the destruction of areas that previously had ideal conditions for their survival can indirectly lead the animals to death or prevent them from finding mates to reproduce.

Michel Zoghzhog flagrou duas onças-pintadas atacando uma sucuri
Almost half of the jaguar population affected by Pantanal fires - Michel Zoghzoghi/WPY/BBC news Brasil

"In addition to evaluating the impact of fire on jaguars in the Pantanal in a comparative way over the years, the research also analyzes how this impact can be negative for the species if it occurs uncontrollably with high frequency and intensity", the first author of the research, Alan Eduardo de Barros, a doctoral student at the Department of Ecology at the Institute of Biosciences at USP, told Folha.

The work of Barros, who signs the study together with his advisor, Paulo Inácio Barros, and other researchers from Brazil, the USA, and Paraguay, has just been published in the scientific journal Communications Biology. The team combined satellite data on the 2020 Pantanal fires with information on the jaguar population in the region and on the movements of the animals across the territory.

These details come from studies done in the years before the fire disaster. As it is not possible to carry out a census, counting every single member of the species, one of these works made estimates based on camera traps, devices that record the presence of an animal at certain points thanks to cameras with motion sensors. In addition to camera traps, this study also took into account the presence of vegetation cover considered adequate for jaguars, among other factors.

Translated by Cassy Dias

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