For Immediate Release, February 2, 2022

Contact:

Alejandro Olivera, Center for Biological Diversity, +52 (612) 104-0604, aolivera@biologicaldiversity.org
Victor Quintanilla (Mexico), AIDA, +521 5570522107, vquintanilla@aida-americas.org

In-Danger Designation Requested for Pantanal Wetlands in Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay

Conservation Groups Urge Ramsar Secretariat, Three Countries to Protect Fire-Threatened Wetlands

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

Today, on World Wetlands Day, the groups asked the secretariat to conduct an advisory mission to six Pantanal wetlands of international importance listed under the convention. They also asked for the wetlands to be inscribed on the Montreux Record, the official world list of endangered 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 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 addressed in the request are the Bolivian Pantanal, the SESC Pantanal Natural Heritage Private Reserve, the Fazenda Rio Negro Natural Heritage Private Reserve, the Pantanal Matogrossense National Park and the Taiamã Ecological Station in Brazil, as well as the Río Negro National Park in Paraguay.

“A Ramsar in-danger designation is crucial to combating the Pantanal’s huge and unprecedented fires, which now threaten Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay,” said Alejandro Olivera, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Public policies that promote agriculture and livestock expansion and allow burning within the Pantanal have combined with limited cross-border collaboration to create a tinderbox. 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 area was 508% more than average. That same year, fires burned 100% of Brazil’s Pantanal National Park Matogrossense. At least 10 million animals died in three months. Unusually large fires continued In July 2021.

“We are asking the states to comply with the obligations acquired before the convention, generating coherent mechanisms and implementing policies and norms to protect the Pantanal,” said Claudia Velarde, a lawyer with the Inter-American Association for the Defense of the Environment. “An advisory mission to the six Ramsar sites could provide specialized assistance to the Brazilian, Bolivian and Paraguayan governments to overcome the conditions that generate risk for the conservation and wise use of this key wetland.”

The inscription of the sites in the Montreux Registry can result in economic aid, support and technical advice, for the recovery of the Pantanal in the three countries.

“We send an urgent alert for Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay to focus on the Pantanal as the largest transboundary freshwater wetland in the world,” said Andre Siqueira, Ecologia e Ação’s president director. “The Ramsar Convention cannot achieve its objectives if the ecosystems it protects are significantly damaged by the continued use of fire, agribusiness and the lack of adequate resources to fight fires.”

The biodiversity and ecological wealth 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 marsh deer, the giant otter and the macaw, which are all emblematic species of the area. The Pantanal is home to the highest concentration of some animal species, such as the jaguar and caiman.

RSScarlet_Macaw_by_Ben_Lunsford_CC-BY-SA-FPWC-scr.jpg
The scarlet macaw inhabits the Pantanal. Credit: Ben Lunsford. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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