GNF - Open Letter 2020

by the Global Nature Fund (GNF) and Living Lakes Network to the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Minister of Environment Ricardo Salles  AGAINST THE SLASH-AND-BURN IN THE BRAZILIAN PANTANAL

 Network Living Lakes


The Pantanal is on fire.

At Global Nature Fund, our hearts are bleeding in view of the pictures and reports that are currently reaching us from the largest tropical wetland on earth.


The South American Pantanal has long been a member of the Living Lakes Network coordinated by GNF whose members are committed to the protection of lakes and wetlands worldwide. Already in 2007, together with our Brazilian Living Lakes partner Fundação Ecotrópica we drew attention to the threat the region is facing, when the Pantanal had been declared “Threatened Lake of the Year”.


But little has happened in the meantime to protect the Pantanal – on the contrary, since July 2020, fires have destroyed more than a tenth of its unique ecosystem. On behalf of the more than 130 member organisations of the International Living Lakes Network, we implore you to take


immediate measures to end the dramatic situation in the Pantanal and to protect the ecosystem effectively and sustainably in the future. Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic must act decisively now to prevent this UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site from being irreversibly destroyed.


The Pantanal, home to jaguar, hyacinth macaws and swamp deer, is of great importance for the South American water cycle. The cause of the current destruction is arson, especially in southwestern Brazil, which is mainly serving the expansion of cattle pastures and areas for soybean cultivation of large agricultural companies, as scientists have proven.


The Brazilian Federal Government does not or only unwillingly take action against these crimes. Speaking to the UN, President Jair Bolsonaro blamed the indigenous population and the small farmers of his country for the arson or denied the fires altogether –claiming that wetlands were wet and therefore could not burn.


The nature conservationists of Fundação Ecotrópica are working tirelessly to contain the effects of the fires and to help the weakened wildlife of the Pantanal: Feeding islands for example keep lowland tapir and other key species alive when the fire has taken everything they had. However, there are hundreds of thousands of rare or endangered animals that perish in the flames or die through lack of food which we cannot save.


In order to alleviate the present suffering and to prevent it in the future, the Global Nature Fund (GNF) and the Living Lakes Network are calling for action:


To the government of Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro and Minister of Environment Ricardo Salles:

Do not encourage farmers to make room for new agricultural land by slash-and-burn practices. An intact Pantanal ecosystem is crucial for water cycles and climate protection in Brazil!


In the long run, the strategy of short-term profit has devastating consequences not only for the indigenous peoples whose homeland the Pantanal is and for the ecology and economy of Brazil and all of South America, but also for the biodiversity, climate and prosperity of the world. The Brazilian government has made a commitment to the UN to effectively protect the Pantanal as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Step up to this commitment!


To the European Union and the European national governments:

We urge you to put pressure on the Brazilian government to abandon the destructive policy of laisser-faire and turn its attention to the protection of the country's natural resources. Develop concrete measures to reduce the production and consumption of industrial meat, egg and dairy products. Create incentives to make the cultivation of protein crops more attractive. Encourage domestic production of legumes which would also have other positive effects, e.g. for beekeeping, wild pollinators, or nitrogen fixation in the soil – regional measures on our doorstep that would contribute at the same time to the sustainable prosperity of Brazil and to the unique nature of the Pantanal.


To all of us as consumers:

Let us reconsider our consumption and nutritional decisions. Buying cheap meat from discounters or supermarkets is directly related to the destruction of priceless life in the Pantanal. Three-quarters of the soy produced worldwide is used as feed for livestock animals which are slaughtered – and almost all the feed soy in Germany and the EU comes from South America. On a highly interconnected planet, our behavior has global consequences for living beings, ecosystems and the climate. Let us act together in this awareness.


On behalf of the 130 Living Lakes member organisations around the world: 



President of the Global Nature Fund


Executive Director of the Global Nature Fund