Fighting Fire for Giant Otters in Brazil

An update on our partner Instituto Araguaia’s award-winning project in Cantao Park.

Our partner Instituto Araguaia have been working hard this past summer to conclude their fire prevention work to help protect the Cantão Park and the animals which live there.

This August a fire broke out from Canto do Obrieni reserve, so our partners’ teams joined forces with farmers who were already on site with two tractors and a water tank: our team didn’t need heavy equipment with them for this one! The farmers had their own machinery and Instituto Araguaia had trained and equipped boots on the ground. The tractor ploughed emergency firebreaks and the Instituto’s team prevented the fire jumping on them, put out spot fires and dowsed all smouldering wood with water, to make sure the fire couldn’t restart.

However, another fire had broken out at a rural settlement project about 20 km to the south, which had travelled into Cantão State Park. Instituto contacted park staff but were not authorised to go fight it, and Naturatins, the park agency also didn’t have approval. Instead, Instituto made it formally known through local park staff, they would not send images of the park burning to the press as long as the fire was put out, which seemed to have an effect as after a few days, the team couldn’t detect any signs of fire.

While all this was taking place, one of Instituto’s regular patrols detected a permanent camp being built by fish poachers in their inholding within Cantão Park. The poachers had set up a water tank, which can be used for cleaning poached fish, and there were scattered remains of poached wildlife, like caimans and river turtles. One of their fires had been lit among the roots of the tree, partially burning them and could have started a major forest fire!

Instituto’s team dismantled everything and removed it to a nearby beach, where whoever owned it could take it away when they returned. Whenever possible the team avoid confrontations. By showing the trespassers their actions had been detected and thwarted, this can usually discourage them for trying again without involving the authorities, which is good for their local reputation as part of the community!

It’s Instituto Araguaia’s work which helps to protect Giant Otters who live in the Araguaia River, in the Cantao State Park in Brazil near the amazon basin. Through their regular fire prevention work, alongside population monitoring and the preservation of fish stocks in the river Giant Otters can survive. As well as the team’s excellent work when it comes to removing fish poachers!

YWPF are working with Instituto to study Giant Otters populations in the region and develop a conservation masterplan, whilst protecting the species from poachers who illegally fish in the area and take away otters’ food source!

Click here to find out more about Instituto Araguaia’s work!

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