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Conservation group: Bolivia fires ravaged big cat habitat

September 4, 2019
Firefighters work to put out a fire in the Chiquitania forest on the outskirts of Robore, Bolivia, Friday, Aug. 30, 2019. While some of the fires are burning in Bolivia's share of the Amazon, the largest blazes were in the Chiquitania region of southeastern Bolivia. It's zone of dry forest, farmland and open prairies that has seen an expansion of farming and ranching in recent years. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
Firefighters work to put out a fire in the Chiquitania forest on the outskirts of Robore, Bolivia, Friday, Aug. 30, 2019. While some of the fires are burning in Bolivia's share of the Amazon, the largest blazes were in the Chiquitania region of southeastern Bolivia. It's zone of dry forest, farmland and open prairies that has seen an expansion of farming and ranching in recent years. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A conservation group says one of Latin America’s key habitats for jaguars suffered extensive devastation during fires in Bolivia.

The South America director for the New York-based Panthera group said Wednesday that a “focal point” of burning has been around San Ignacio de Velasco, where a number of wild cat species live.

Esteban Payán says any jaguars, pumas and other wild cats that survived would be struggling because deer and other prey died in the fires. He spoke by telephone from Bolivia after traveling there to assess the situation.

The area is in the Santa Cruz region, where many fires got out of control after being intentionally set during an expansion of farming and ranching. It is near the border with Brazil, where fires also ravaged parts of the Amazon.

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