The fires that have raged over the Amazon rainforest may have caught the world’s attention, but, unknown to many, the Gran Chaco, the second largest forest in South America, is also burning, and it’s vanishing in plain sight.
This extremely biodiverse forest, which spans from Bolivia and Brazil to Paraguay and Argentina, is home to over 3,400 plant and 900 animal species.
It is also home to at least 30 indigenous peoples, including the Ayoreo, some of whom live in voluntary isolation in their historic homelands, as well Mennonite colonies.
Now, due to the some of the fastest deforestation in the world, this once enormous ecosystem may soon be gone outside of protected areas. Since 2001, more than 31,000 square miles of forest were felled to make way for agriculture and cattle ranching in the Gran Chaco.
To clear forest land for grazing, both legally and illegally, Paraguayan cattle ranchers use what’s called “chaining.” That means leveling the forest with tractors that drag heavy chains. Then they burn the fallen trees.
It’s saddening to hear that our world’s forests are being burned, and it’s more saddening that our forests are burned intentionally.
(Image Credit: Joel E. Correia/ Fast Company)