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The First Wild Tapir is Born in Iberá

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Nena, a newly released tapir, and her new baby (June 2017). Rincon del Socorro, Iberá Park: Photo: Gerardo Cerón

Nena, a female tapir reintroduced to the region, has given birth to her first calf

After over half a century of absence from the region, tapirs are now beginning to reproduce in the wilds of Iberá. The tapir is the largest land mammal in South America and is classified as ‘endangered’ in Argentina. This peculiar animal has seen its population reduced to less than half of its original numbers over the past 100 years due to habitat destruction and hunting.

In order to reverse this trend, in 2016 the Conservation Land Trust (CLT) began a project focused on bringing this great mammal back to Iberá. CLT began this project by releasing tapirs from the Government of Salta’s Indigenous Wildlife Station and the University of Tucumán’s Horco Molle Experimental Reserve. As a result of these reintroduction efforts, the CLT rewilding team has confirmed the birth of the first wild calf to the newly restored tapir population.

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Photo: Gerardo Cerón

The newborn has been determined to be male and the son of Nena, a female that joined the tapir population founder group in Iberá from the Indigenous Wildlife Station of Salta this past March. With the arrival of this calf, there are now seven tapirs (2 males and 4 adult females, plus the small male) living in Rincón del Socorro, a natural reserve owned by CLT that will be donated to the Argentinian state in order to form part of Iberá National Park.

The birth of this calf signifies another step forward in the ambitious task of bringing back the many fauna that have disappeared from the Iberá region. This rewilding (or restoration of extinct species) program, the largest on the American continent, began in 2007 with the release of the program’s first giant anteaters. Created by Douglas and Kristine Tompkins through their nonprofit organization, the program has benefited from the active participation and support of the governments of Corrientes and Argentina, provincial authorities, dozens of public and private organizations, and many Argentinian and foreign individuals. Iberá’s rewilding program is further strengthened by the donation of CLT’s lands to create Iberá Park (which, at 700,000 hectares, will be the largest in Argentina) and the work of multiple institutions to promote Iberá as an ecotourism destination that serves as a source of employment and pride for the region’s inhabitants.

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Photo: Gerardo Cerón

In the words of Sebastián de Martino, coordinator of the CLT Fauna Restoration Program at Iberá, “The birth of this calf augments the births of other previously-extinct species in Iberá, such as the pampas deer, giant anteater and peccary. We want to thank our Tucuman and Salta colleagues, who donated the tapirs, for helping Corrientes bring back this key piece of its original fauna. We hope that this good news will soon be complemented by the birth of the region’s first jaguar cubs. This is an example of what can be achieved in our country when public and private entities collaborate on working towards a common goal.”

The Restoration of Iberá

The Iberá Natural Reserve, covering 1.3 million hectares of public and private lands, was created by the Corrientes government in 1983. Douglas and Kristine Tompkins were invited by the Argentinian national park management to visit Iberá in 1997. Enchanted by this impressive wilderness area, the Tompkinses began working in the region through their organization, CLT; eventually buying 150,000 hectares of private lands, with the aim of one day donating them to the Argentinian state.

Under the care of the foundation’s veterinarians and biologists, working in collaboration with the provincial reserve staff, the region’s wildlife recovered quickly and Iberá became a world-renowned tourist destination. Concurrently, the CLT-led wildlife restoration program has managed to establish two new populations of pampas deer and anteaters in the region, along with early nuclei of tapir, collared peccary and green-winged macaws. Additionally, the program became the first in the world to undergo the creation of a jaguar breeding project, aimed at reintroducing these large cats into areas where the species had been previously extirpated. All of these efforts were supported by the agreement reached, between CLT, the government of Corrientes and the current government of Argentina, to create the 700,000 hectare Iberá Park through the combination of Correntine fiscal lands and lands donated by CLT.

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