Massive wildfires devastate protected area of Bolivian forest

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More than 1,000 square miles of Bolivian forests have been destroyed by wildfires, authorities say.

So far 280,000 hectares, an area equivalent to just less than twice that of greater London, has been devastated in a southeastern region bordering Brazil and Paraguay.

As of Friday, Bolivia's Santa Cruz fire department said 15 fires have yet to be contained and continue to threaten, among others, the Nembiguasu conservation area.

Nembiguasu means "the great refuge", and is home to the Ayoreo indigenous community, which is in a state of voluntary isolation, as well as jaguars, pumas anteaters and night monkeys.

There were reports of fires in the area during the previous two years.

Yovenka Rosado, the head of the Santa Cruz Forest Fire Unit, said: "Our firefighters are working in coordination with military from the armed forces, municipality technical personnel, National Park rangers from the various protected areas."

Across the whole of Bolivia up to the end of July, more than 749,000 hectares (2,890 sq miles) have burned - 62% more than during the same time period in 2020 - according to the Friends of Nature Foundation.

Fires are frequently started by farmers and cattle ranchers to increase their yields but due to very dry conditions and the wind they quickly lose control of the flames.

High winds have been reported in the region, which, say environmentalists, have help aggravate the latest blazes.

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