Reduction of damage to wild animals impacted by fires is the theme of an event held by SOS Amazônia
Images of animals killed, injured and cornered by burning in the Amazon ran the world last year, highlighting yet another one of the serious problems arising from the fire in the biome: the loss of fauna. When they manage to escape from the flames, many animals lose their lives run over on dirt roads and urban roads – or even attacked by domestic animals.

With each “Amazonian summer”, period between June and September, the concern grows. Data released on Friday (7) by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) show that deforestation alerts in the Legal Amazon, 1 the  of August 2019 , to July 31, 2020, reached 9205 km 2 , high 33% compared to the previous 12 months. The more forest is cleared, the greater the likelihood of burning, in the traditional and perverse cutting and burning cycle in the biome.

To mitigate the effects of flames on animals, the NGO SOS Amazônia held, with the support of WWF-Brazil, the online seminar “Care and Procedures for Rescuing Fauna Affected by Fire Activity in the State of Acre”. Between June and July, for a month, members of civil society organizations, academia, environmental protection and inspection bodies discussed this issue in order to establish protocols.

The activity is part of a series of actions resulting from a partnership signed between SOS and WWF-Brazil last year. Within the scope of this contract, for example, a fire brigade was also created to act in conservation units in the Juruá and Tarauacá / Envira valleys, in Acre.

In that region, the institution that works most directly in the rescue of wild fauna is the Fire Department. The species most caught are the giant anteater, the sloth, boa, armadillos, owls and other birds. Between 1 the  January and July 21 this year, the corporation answered 1,596 animal rescue incidents, almost 30% more than in the same period of 2019. Historically, the peak occurs in the fire season.

According to Major Cláudio Falcão, head of the Fire Department’s Communication Division, 90% of these calls are related to wild species. “They are animals that escape the fires, go to the streets and enter the backyards of the houses. We do both capture and rescue. The rescue is when he needs care and we take him for treatment, and the capture is when he looks good and we return him to nature ”, he explains. “We also find dead animals, usually when we are fighting fires, but we do not count them,” adds the official.

Those in need of veterinary care are taken by firefighters to the Wild Animal Screening Center (Cetas), of the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama). There are 23 Cetas active in Brazil. In addition to the firefighters, animals can reach Cetas through inspection operations by Ibama, the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), the Military Police or other security agencies, in addition to the community itself.

After going through all the veterinary assessments and being quarantined, the animals can go back to nature or be directed to registered private breeders and zoos. Those who have sequelae go to these places, such as severe burns or the loss of a limb. “The animals are received, they need to have a species identification, because from that it is necessary to have an adequate food. We do the registration and screening: if it is a bird, a reptile, a mammal ”, stresses Elaine Oliveira, head of Cetas Acre. “We evaluated the physical condition. If the animal is healthy, it goes for immediate release. The less time you spend with us, the better for the animal’s survival ”.

Among the most common species that go for immediate release are boa constrictors, sloths and giant anteaters. In Acre, 200 wild animals were received by Cetas in 2019 – an increase of 43% compared to 2018. The period with the greatest amount of receipt occurs precisely between June and September, the months of the fires in the Amazon.

From the seminar, the proposal was to build a methodological report to standardize the techniques of rescue and capture of wild animals during the fires. “Our intention was to train the agents involved in fighting fire so that, when they find animals, they know the correct way to make the capture and, thus, reduce the damage to fauna. It is necessary to avoid stressing the animal more so that it can reach the screening center in the best possible way, be treated and, at the right time, be returned to nature ”, sums up Luiz Henrique Medeiros, biologist and consultant at SOS Amazônia.

Threat in Conservation Units

Almost 75% of the 265 species of animals and plants that are at risk of extinction in the Amazon are in Conservation Units (UCs). But a study by WWF-Brasil shows that even in these places, which were designed to protect fauna and flora, security is complete. Successive increases in deforestation and fire are the main concerns of experts.

According to this study, 39 species of fauna and 16 of threatened flora occur in the 10 UCs in the Amazon that registered the highest rates of outbreaks of fires between September last year and June 2020.

Among the animal species, the five that are in the most delicate situation are: tico-tico-with-black-mask, azulona, ​​armadillo-canastra, giant anteater and caiarara.  They are the most vulnerable precisely because they are highly affected by fire and their habitats are being destroyed. “Combating fires is fundamental”, warns Gabriela Moreira, a focal point for species threatened with extinction in WWF-Brazil. “If there is no security in the Conservation Units, what is the guarantee that we will have on the application of public policies built in the last decades for the protection of species?”, He adds. Civil society organizations are taking action, what is lacking are more effective actions by governments to curb environmental crimes.