Number of fires in the Amazon reached a 13-year high in June — and scientists fear they will engulf vast areas of rainforest in the coming months

  • Fire activity in the Amazon normally peaks between July–October each year
  • However, researcher in Brazil detected 2,248 individual fires this June alone
  • Activists have said that COVID-19 has further thinned out official resources
  • This, they claim, has allowed illegal loggers and ranchers to burn more forest 

The number of fires in the Amazon reached a 13-year high in June — with scientists now fearing that flames will engulf vast areas of rainforest in the coming months.

Fire activity in the Amazon — along with much of the rest of south America — typically reaches its peak between July and October each year.

However, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research reported that it detected 2,248 individual fires in the Amazon last month.

This is the highest the figure has been for June since back in 2007 — and part of an alarming trend, with experts warning last year of the climate impacts of such fires.

The number of fires in the Amazon reached a 13-year high in June — with scientists now fearing that flames will engulf vast areas of rainforest in the coming months (file photo)

From May–June last year, researchers in Brazil detected 2,735 fires by using satellite imaging technology.

This year, however, experts are reporting an increase of around 12.5 per cent — spotting a total of 3,077 fires in the three-month period.

Environmental activists have accused illegal loggers and ranchers of taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic — Brazil being the country with the second highest numbers of cases in the world — to burn off more of the rainforest.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has also been accused of undermining efforts to protect the forest by encouraging logging and mining efforts as well as cutting the funding to the Ministry of the Environment. 

‘These fires are no accident. Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro, has done nothing to discourage ranchers and land grabbers to stop deforesting the Amazon,’ said Greenpeace’s head of forests, Anna Jones.

‘Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, deforestation has soared and now we are seeing fires deliberately lit to clear that land for agriculture.’

‘Over the next few months, unless we see strong intervention, fires will be likely to increase and engulf vast areas of forest, endangering the lives of Indigenous Peoples, wildlife and worsening the climate crisis globally.’

Fire activity in the Amazon — along with much of the rest of south America — typically reaches its peak between July and October each year. Pictured, deforestation in a region of the Amazon rainforest that has been affected by fire, as seen in the August of last year

‘But let’s not forget — just a few weeks ago, more than 40 companies, including several British supermarkets, signed a letter to the Brazilian Congress expressing their concern about Amazon fires and deforestation,’ Ms Jones added. 

‘Those supermarkets will be judged on how they respond to this unfolding crisis. They all sell high volumes of industrial meat, much of which is connected to deforestation in forests like the Amazon.’

‘It’s time supermarkets dropped forest destroyers and replaced industrial meat with plant based options — it’s vital if we’re to reduce our impact on the climate, people and wildlife.’

The letter — which was signed, among others, by Asda, Iceland, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose — can be read on the Retail Soy Group website.

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