Chile wildfires damage unique flora, fauna

Chile wildfires damage unique flora, fauna

22 March 2015

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Chile — Massive wildfires in drought-stricken southern Chile have wiped out hundreds of plant species, and are now threatening animal life and a national park.

“We are witnessing a massive environmental catastrophe” in southern Chile, Accion Ecologica chief Luis Mariano Rendon says.

Rendon said “there have been whole species lost,” including the monkey puzzle tree.

“They are trees that take hundreds of years to reach maturity. So this is a practically irreparable loss for current generations,” he said.

The trees, a distant relative of better known pine, are considered sacred by indigenous Mapuche people.

Chile has declared them part of its unique national natural heritage.

Fires in the country’s south have ravaged more than 3700ha of forest and have been contained but not put out entirely, firefighters said.

There are still 25 active fires, potentially threatening Conguillio National Park.

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