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National park under threat from Pantanal wild fire

The Pantanal is considered one of world's richest area of biodiversity, home to caimans, jaguars, giant otters, tapirs and other animals, and is visited by an estimated 200,000 tourists a year.
by Staff Writers
La Paz (AFP) July 8, 2010
A raging wild fire threatening the world's largest wetlands on the border of Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil is out of control and has reached a protected national park, an official said Thursday.

"The fire is uncontrollable, you can see it for miles," said Guadalupe Montenegro, the director of Bolivia's Otuquis National Park in the Pantanal, a gigantic wetland home for thousands of rare species of plants and animals.

Montenegro told AFP the fire had erupted two weeks ago on the more densely populated Brazilian side of the border after a prolonged drought in the region, which is bounded by vast arid forests and savannahs.

The Otuquis National Park, located in southeastern Bolivia near the border with Brazil and Paraguay, covers an area of more than one million hectares and was created in 1997.

"Our protected area is a nature zone, there are no buildings and the fire is very difficult to control," said Montenegro.

The disaster was already affecting villages that skirt the park and the authorities were meeting with local leaders and the general public to assess the situation, she said.

An environmental group warned on Wednesday that the blaze was approaching the The Three Giants Biological Station, an important research center in the wetland on the Paraguayan side of the border.

A similar fire emanating from Bolivia last year struck the Paraguayan part of the Pantanal, a vast natural area of nearly 200,000 square kilometers (75,000 square miles).

The Pantanal is considered one of world's richest area of biodiversity, home to caimans, jaguars, giant otters, tapirs and other animals, and is visited by an estimated 200,000 tourists a year.

Last year, environmentalists established a group called "SOS Pantanal" in Brazil, hoping to slow the creeping development in the region for farming or pasture land.

At the current rate, the Brazilian Pantanal will disappear in 45 years, according to a 2006 report by Conservation International.




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FIRE STORM
Bolivia wildfire threatens world's largest wetland
Asuncion (AFP) July 7, 2010
A huge wildfire in Bolivia threatened Wednesday parts of the Pantanal, the world's largest wetland which is a popular tourist attraction and home to thousands of species of plants and animals. The environmental group Guyra Paraguay warned that the uncontrolled blaze was approaching the The Three Giants Biological Station, an important research center in the wetland, which is bounded by vast ... read more

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