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Five years of relocation and recovery for the giant anteater at Iberá

Photo credit: Evangelina Indelicato and Luis Piovani

Five years ago, on October 17th, 2007, two giant anteaters named Ivoty Porá and Preto stepped out of their traveling cages to begin a free life in the grasslands of Rincón del Socorro property, in the area of the Iberá wetlands. A small group of supporters—park guards, townspeople, neighbors, and CLT team members—looked on with a heady mix of joy, nerves and pride. After many decades of absence, the giant anteaters were finally returning to roam the wilds of Corrientes! Since then, the program (and the population of giant anteaters) has flourished, and Ivoty Porá is the proud mother of four offspring born free at Iberá.

Ivoty with her fourth offspring. Photo taken with a camera trap.

Once common, the giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla has been largely absent from the Corrientes Province for decades, suffering from habitat loss and persecution by humans. Over time, the giant anteater disappeared not only from the wildlands of Corrientes, but also from the cultural memory of most of its human inhabitants. Now after five years of dedicated work by our team of wildlife biologists and conservationists, it looks like history is ready to give the giant anteater a second chance, with a population of 28 introduced and 9 new native-born anteaters settling in to life at Iberá.

Graph demonstrating population dynamics of giant anteaters at the Iberá Natural Reserve.

This November 22nd, we (CLT) commemorated the fifth anniversary of the project along with dozens of supporters and collaborators. Beer, wine, choripán and laughter colored the evening of celebration, and the stories of favorite anteater “personalities” were retold. There was Tota, a heavy-set anteater that went missing for more than a year and was finally discovered, thin and haggard, dozens of miles from the reserve. After careful rehabilitation, Tota went on to father two healthy offspring that same year. There was Hata, run over by a car in Santiago del Estero, who endured five surgeries on his mangled leg, and still went on to live two happy years with us. And we can’t forget Formoseña, a beautiful female whose health was restored from critical condition so she could become a mother living freely at Iberá. But perhaps most of all we celebrated Ivoty, the first female to bear offspring native to the reserve, now a mother of four.

George Schaller looks on as the team examines one of the Iberá anteaters

Attending the celebration in spirit was world-renown naturalist George Schaller, whose pioneering studies with species as charismatic and difficult to study as the lion, the tiger, the jaguar, the mountain gorilla, the panda, and the snow leopard have inspired so many in the conservation community over the years. In 1975, Schaller was the first biologist to study the endangered pampas deer here at the Iberá reserve. A few months ago, Schaller returned to Iberá after forty years of absence, joyful to find that his original studies helped inspire the ground-breaking reintroductions of both the pampas deer and the giant anteater here in this magnificent landscape. What a pleasure to share our accomplishments in conservation with someone as knowledgeable and experienced as Schaller, from whom we have all learned so much!

As the project continues to grow and more personalities are added to the group, the drama only gets more interesting . Over the last year, we added a total of seven new anteaters to the population: three juveniles, two adult males, and two adult females. We also brought in our first anteater born in captivity—Poty, a young mother donated to the project by the Giant Anteater Conservation Project and the Barcelona Zoo. Our new additions were sadly punctuated by bad tidings, with four creatures falling to an especially harsh period of frost. These deaths have not only brought sadness to our study, but have also inspired us to hold higher standards of monitoring and care for this sensitive creature, especially in the first years of life in a new environment.

Slowly but surely, the giant anteater is returning to ecosystem of Iberá. Of the 28 released anteaters, we know that at least 24–and up to 27–are still alive and flourishing. Four of the females have successfully given birth to a total of nine Iberá-native offspring, and we look forward to our younger females joining the ranks of anteater mothers. Over the last two years of the project, various park guards and tourists have even reported encountering anteaters in the outskirts of Colonia Carlos Pellegrini. Their range is spreading, and we couldn’t be more pleased.

This map demonstrates the locations and ranges of the anteaters that live within the Rincón del Socorro reserve at Iberá.

We wish to take the opportunity of our fifth anniversary to thank the many institutions and people who have made possible the return of this emblematic animal at Iberá. Thanks to the authorities of Corrientes, through two governments and various directors, who have always maintained their support of the project. Thanks to Dirección de Fauna Silvestre de Argentina, which provided critical public support in the early experimental stages. Thanks to the governments of Santiago del Estero, Jujuy, Salta, Formosa and Chaco, which supplied the all-important base material for the project through the donation of rescued anteaters. To these honorees, we add Estación Experimental Horco Molle, the Florencio Varela Zoo, and all of the scientific advisors who have guided us through this exciting process. Finally, thanks to the CLT team, and to our volunteers who have followed and supported our work from rescue to recovery to release. Thanks to all for five years filled with learning, mistakes, insights, good and bad news, inspiring collaborations, and great satisfaction in this exciting venture!

The Patagonia store in Buenos Aires joined us in celebrating this momentous occasion. Check out this video for lively scenes from the anteaters’ fifth “birthday party,” along with further details on the meaning of this project.

For more information about this project and other ventures in the restoration of endangered species at Iberá, please visit our website.

The very first anteater is released at the reserve in 2007.

Two juveniles, Pancha and Tinelli, come to feed

Kari and Yamill fix a new collar on Lionel

Diana adjusts Renata’s radio collar.

A baby anteater, recently introduced to the reserve

Protected, and free to range the marshes of Iberá!

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Farming and restoration at the Hornopiren Farm: A chat with Héctor and Nancy Oyarzún

For almost eleven years, Hector and Nancy Oyarzun have managed the picturesque and productive Hornopiren farm, part of the Pumalin Project.  This farm lies only 60 miles (100 km) south of Puerto Montt by the Carretera Austral (the Southern Highway) making it more accessible than the other farms of the Pumalin Project.  Dramatic views of the Hornopiren Volcano, the centerpiece of the nearby Hornopiren National Park, make this farm also one of the most beautiful.

Hector and Nancy began their work at Hornopiren shortly after Doug and Kris acquired the property.  They had their work cut out for them: the farm was a textbook example of poor management practices, bearing the scars of poor forestry and agricultural practices, as well as illegal dumping and timber processing.  After over a decade of restoration work, Hector, Nancy, and those working alongside them have transformed Hornopirén into a healthy and beautiful farm once again.

The vast majority of its 855 acres (346 hectares) remain uncultivated Valdivian temperate rainforest, providing prime habitat for rare wildlife such as the pudú, the world’s smallest deer.  Herds of cattle and sheep graze on restored pastures. The organic greenhouses, vegetable garden and berry plantation use an innovative composting system to provide nutrients to plants.  Organic honey production rounds out the farm’s diverse productive activities.

Hector and Nancy took a break to answer a few questions about working at Hornopiren and their experience there.

Q: Where are you from?

A: We are both from Osorno, a city north of Puerto Montt, and grew up farming there.

Q: What has led you to stay so long at Hornopiren?

A:  Hornopiren is a very peaceful, beautiful, well-organized farm.  It’s a pleasure to spend time here, and we’re very happy with our work.  This is the biggest challenge we’ve ever taken on, but also the most satisfying

Q: What are the challenges of managing this farm?

A:  The restoration process was long and challenging, and we often had to experiment to figure out the best technique, since this type of restoration work has not been done before in this region.  Over the years, we’ve shifted our balance of sheep and cattle, trying to figure out which livestock makes the most sense ecologically and economically.  We work every day to farm with nature, but that can be a difficult, complicated project.

Q:  What is your favorite part of your work day?

A:  When we return to the farm on Monday morning, to figure out the challenges and lessons of the next week of work!

Q: In your experience, what is unique about working as part of the Pumalin Project?

A:  Doug is a great leader and boss: he believes in us and trusts us based on our track record here, and gives us the opportunity to do what we love most—working on a farm, close to nature and wildlife.  We receive great advice from him and Carlos Zambrano (manager of Pumalin Park and Project), but also have the space to work independently.  We really feel that we are part of a big family of motivated, like-minded people.

Hornopiren features a restored wooden farmhouse, build decades ago in the regional style, maintenance and equipment sheds, and fixed-up interior farm roads.

The mighty Hornopiren volcano provides a grand background for berry plantations.

Fences and walkways are constructed in the traditional local style.

Hector and Nancy sell many of the vegetables they produce at the local market in the town of Hornopiren.

All cattle are raised organically and entirely on pastures.

The farm produces a wide variety of berries: blueberry, raspberry, gooseberry, murta, and sarsaparilla.

Additional supervision by dog!

 

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