A fire has been burning since mid-July in the remote wetlands of west-central Brazil, leaving in its wake a vast charred desolation bigger than New York City.

A team of veterinarians, biologists and local guides arrived in late August to prowl the bumpy dirt road known as the Trans-Pantanal Highway in pickup trucks, looking to save what injured animals they could.

Jaguars were wandering the blackened wasteland, they said, starving or going thirsty, with paws burnt to the bone, lungs blackened by smoke. They saw bodies of alligator-like caiman, jaws frozen in silent screams, the last act of creatures desperate to cool off before being consumed by flames.

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