Expert cautions comparing Amazon, African fires after internet anger


Social media outrage, claiming that the world is ignoring fires in Africa as the Amazon burns, is “over the top” and a “misunderstanding”, a South African expert has said.

The selective outrage is at variance with understanding fire in Africa,’’ Prof. Harold Annegarn, from the North-West University, said.

His comments come after satellite images from NASA’s fire information system – a system which Annegarn helped to set up – were circulated on social media along with claims that there are more fires in Africa than South America.

This could be true, says Annegarn, but the big difference from the fires in the Amazon is that, at this time of the year, fires in Africa are the norm.

They usually occur in drier regions, not rain forests, and follow a seasonal wave – from west to south – annually.

It is a natural phenomenon to which the African ecosystems have adapted.’’

The fires are usually caused by agricultural or hunting practices and when they get out of control can be problematic, but not necessarily “catastrophic”, he said.

Annegarn, who is also a pollution expert, does not deny that human activity and climate change have had an effect on the number and degree of fires, but not its qualitative nature in Africa.

The rain forests of the Congo Basin, in Central Africa, includes a third of the forests of the continent, which makes it the second largest area of tropical forests in the world after the Amazon.

The World Wildlife Foundation has warned about their rapid deforestation in the past.