Entering MT-060, a 147 km dirt road known as Transpantaneira, it is possible to see the impact of the worst drought in the last 60 years that the biome is facing. A situation that led the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Resources (IBAMA) to take an emergency action this Sunday (19), unprecedented in the region, to carry out the translocation of more than 200 alligators to other parts of the road that still have water and food, in order to avoid the animals’ death. MT-060 is the gateway to Pantanal Mato Grosso, in Poconé, a city 104 km from Cuiabá.
Despite the fact that alligators are resistant to periods of drought in the Pantanal, the current condition of the biome did not allow these animals to feed enough for the moment of bruming ― a period of lethargy and low metabolic activity in order to save energy in adverse situations. As a result, many of them do not have the strength to face the lack of water and hunger, two situations that have been a reality between them since 2020, but which have intensified this year.
“We understand that this animal goes through this situation of drought every year, but not at such a dramatic level. And that comes in a two-year streak. It is necessary for us to consider the need to manage them. Of course, when you think about a population context it doesn’t make any difference. Now, when you think about the individual, about the quality of life of this animal, you start to ponder that it is pertinent to take it out of here and take it to another place”, says IBAMA employee Bruno Campos. Alligators follow the Institute’s cars for a distance of up to 30 kilometers to find a favorable environment for their feeding.
Campos explains that daily water monitoring is being carried out on bridge 3, where the alligators are located, and that the water decreases by a reasonable amount each day. “Due to the number of animals that are there, the scarcity of water here and in other places around, we decided to translocate these animals and relocate them to places with availability of water and food to see if it improves their chance of survival,” he said.
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From February to May, the northern Pantanal usually experiences floods. Therefore, Transpanteneira has 120 bridges, several of them still made of wood. The rivers formed by the flood and that pass under them are called streams. But practically all of them are dry, as the Pantanal has not flooded this year and in the past.
There are animals isolated by the drought, which remained in water points unable to migrate to other places because there is no water availability for several kilometers. “This drought comes from last year and will possibly last for the next two, three years,” says Campos. “When you analyze the situation of these animals, you have a somatization of situations: deforestation, suppression of water from the water table, the fires that end up reducing the food they need. Last year the river did not enter here due to a series of factors. Because he didn’t come in, he didn’t have the availability of food, which is normal year after year”, he points out.
NGOs are working tirelessly to ensure the survival of animals in the biome with the highest density per square kilometer of mammals in the world. Water trucks are filling streams where there is still enough water left over for some animals to live. A race against time facing a sandy soil, low air humidity and a heat of over 40ºC, a set of situations that culminate in the evaporation of thousands of liters of water per day.
According to the coordinator of the Group for the Rescue of Animals in Disasters (GRAD), the veterinarian Carla Sássi, the decision to translocate the animals came before a difficult scenario of death of several animals daily. “The water analysis was carried out. The result was that this place is totally unsuitable for the survival of these animals, even though they are very resistant”, said Sássi. For the veterinarian, the situation in which alligators are is totally incompatible with life. “Every day we arrive here and there are five, six of them dead with characteristics of malnutrition and dehydration,” said Sássi.
GRAD is formed by volunteer professionals with the objective of promoting humanitarian aid to animals in vulnerable circumstances, and is working with Ibama in the production of alligators. In the field, there are 11 professionals from the group, divided between capture and primary care for the animals. Together with them are the organizations Brigada Norte SOS Pantanal and Ecotrópica. For the transfer, an air-conditioned van is being used, where at least 15 alligators are being taken at a time. The estimate is that the action lasts 2-3 days.
The reporters traveled to Pantanal with the support of the Observa-MT initiative.
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