Bolivia suffers as ‘chaqueo’ burns escape control


Government team treats tapir burned in Bolivia’s dry-season fires, which have devastated natural lands and wildlife for the second year in a row. (Photo courtesy of Bolivia’s General Directorate of Biodiversity and Protected Areas)

As widespread fires in Brazilian natural lands captured world headlines in recent months, blazes in neighboring Bolivia drew less notice but took a crushing toll. By Oct. 26, fires this year had consumed over 1.8 million hectares (4.4 million acres) in Bolivian protected lands, affecting eight of the country’s nine administrative departments. The conflagrations—virtually all said to be the result of deliberately set agricultural fires that escaped control in drought conditions—reportedly have affected at least 37 indigenous communities and rural villages, in many cases forcing evacuations. Hardest hit was the Chiquitanía, a tropical savanna ecoregion in eastern Bolivia that serves as a natural transition zone between the Amazon biome to the north and the semi-arid Gran Chaco region to the south. Critics of the government complain that appeals for help from local communities in the departments of Chuquisaca, Santa Cruz and Tarija, home to rural families typically... [Log in to read more]

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