More than 2 million animals have been killed by wildfires in Bolivia in recent months, including jaguars, pumas, and ocelots, AFP reported. The fires have burned more than 10 million acres of forest and grassland since August, devastating ecosystems including the Chiquitania tropical savanna and an old-growth forest reserve in the state of Santa Cruz.
“We have consulted the biologists of Chiquitania and we have exceeded the estimate of more than 2.3 million missing animals in many protected areas,” biologist Sandra Quiroga of Santa Cruz University told AFP.
While many animals were likely able to flee the flames, scientists reported finding the charred remains of ocelots, pumas, deer, llamas, anteaters, badgers, lizards, and tapirs. Panthera, a big cat conservation group, estimated that at least 500 adult jaguars have been killed or left homeless by the fires in Brazil and Bolivia, with nearly 5 million acres of critical big cat habitat lost in the Santa Cruz area alone.
More than 36,000 fires have burned in Bolivia so far this year, driven largely by farmers clearing land for agricultural purposes. This represents a 75 percent increase over the same time last year, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, which has been monitoring the spike in wildfires across Latin America in recent months.
“The scale, intensity, and velocity of fire destruction are alarming and more intense than any other threat in comparable timescales,” Esteban Payan, the South America regional director for Panthera, told Earther. “This is so alarming because there isn’t an equivalent collective response.”
For more on South America’s devastating wildfires, click here.