Update on Forest Fire in Poço das Antas Reserve

Created in 1974 with the intent of protecting golden lion tamarins and their habitat, Poço das Antas was the first Biological Reserve in Brazil.  Nearly all the forest in Poço das Antas has been cut and regenerated several times over the past four centuries.  At present, about 3,100 of the Reserve’s 5,000 hectares are forested.  The rest is exotic grass species remaining from pastures existing before the Reserve’s creation, as well as dried peat (swampland drained by a dam bordering the Reserve).   Nonforest tracts in Poço das Antas burn occasionally but there has not been a major fire in the past 4 years.  However, on February 7th and 8th, about 1,000ha of grassland and peat burned when a neighbor’s careless and illegal burning of pasture spread to the Reserve.  Details of the fire are on the Association’s Facebook page

There are three tragic scenarios caused by the recent fire in Poço das Antas Reserve.  The first is the loss of animal life.  As you can see on the Association’s Facebook, the fire killed hundreds of small and large animals.  Although we documented golden lion tamarins with singed fur and burned feet in previous fires, we don’t know if any were injured or killed in this one.  The second issue is the loss of existing forest.  Wind-driven fires burn into standing forest and kill many trees, as shown in the following picture. 


Third, and worst, is the loss of regenerating forest.  Fires like this one are fed by exotic grasses and burn hot enough to kill small trees and thus retard forest recovery.  Poço das Antas now holds about 330 golden lion tamarins. The loss of 1,000 hectares of future forest habitat represents about 114 golden lion tamarins that will not join the reserve population in the foreseeable future.  In other words, this fire prevented the current wild population of golden lion tamarins from growing by about 7%.  The loss is especially unfortunate as all of those tamarins would have been in a permanently protected reserve and would have made a significant contribution to SGLT/AMLD’s conservation goal of 2,000 golden lion tamarins in protected and connected forest habitat.

The Brazilian Golden Lion Tamarin Association, which we at SGLT work to support, played a critical role in limiting the damage caused by the recent fire in Poço das Antas.  If it had not been for the Association’s contributions of logistic support, manpower, and funds, it is likely that the fire would have destroyed 50,000 young trees in forest plantings just north of the burned area (see map below).  We sincerely thank the individuals of the AMLD staff, the Reserve staff (ICMBio), and other local volunteers whose hard labor over two difficult days prevented the fire from reaching the planted tree seedlings.

AMLD has identified wildfires as one of the five main threats to golden lion tamarin survival.  Your tax-deductible donations to Save the Golden Lion Tamarin are critical to help AMLD continue to prevent and combat fires and expand golden lion tamarin forest habitat. 

Poço das Antas Biological Reserve, Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil.

 Before and after photo of the reserve. Dark purple shows the area burned. Photo courtesy Clinton Jenkins.