Burning in Mato Grosso Puts Primate Species in Danger
The wave of fires devastating the country is causing severe damage in the transition zone between the Amazon and the cerrado. This area is naturally drier and increasingly vulnerable to climate change. Endangered primate species, such as the white-faced spider monkey (Ateles marginatus), have already been seen fleeing the burning forest. "The situation around the Xingu Indigenous Park, especially at the Teles Pires-Xingu inter-river [region between rivers], is dire," says Gustavo Canale, a researcher at the Federal University of Mato Grosso and current president of the Brazilian Society of Primatology. "We had a slight improvement because of a few rain showers, but the truth is that the Arc of Deforestation is on fire. We spent five days without seeing the sun." The field trips carried out by Canale and his colleagues in the municipality of Sinop (MT) showed that, although the tallest trees are still standing, the fires transformed large areas of the understory (the lowest layers of vegetation) into scorched earth. "You walk the trails for two, three kilometers, and see that the fire went into the undergrowth burning everything," he says. According to the biologist, it is possible to smell burning meat inside the forest, and residents report seeing animals killed by the fire.