Thelma Krug has lost her job in a row over the precision of official data, say sources at the environment ministry

Deforestation rates in Brazil are rising again after several years of progress against illegal clearance (Photo: Neil Palmer/CIAT)

The head of Brazil’s anti-deforestation department has been fired in a dispute over the way trends are monitored.

Thelma Krug, who is also a vice chair of the UN’s climate science panel (IPCC), had held the post in the environment ministry since 2016.

In the 1980s, Krug helped create the remote sensing system that gives Brazil its yearly estimates of deforestation in the Amazon. In the ministry, she oversaw a project for monitoring clear-cutting in the cerrado, Brazil’s threatened savanna.

Last year, after the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, she was sacked by incoming minister Jose Sarney Filho, only to be readmitted the same day. The minister called the incident “an administrative mishap”.

The ministry told the press that Krug “expressed her interest in leaving”, so that she could “dedicate more time to her attributions at IPCC”.

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Sources say, however, that the removal happened after a row with vice-minister Marcelo Cruz, who questioned the deforestation data produced by the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe), where Krug is a senior scientist.