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Rare Andean Deer Found in Chile’s Northern Patagonia

Thanks to an alliance between the non-profit Puelo Patagonia, Tompkins Conservation and the National Geographic Society, researchers have made the first scientific discovery of endangered huemuls (south Andean deer) in the Puelo Valley, a remote area of Chile’s Lakes District. This groundbreaking finding makes evident the need for further monitoring and protection of the species.

Huemul

May 28, 2019- Thanks to the accounts of rural settlers living in a remote region of the Andes, rare huemul deer have been discovered in an area without previous record of the species. While the Puelo Valley is located only one hundred miles from the regional capital of Puerto Montt, via an unpaved road and ferry transit on the Tagua Tagua Lake, this mountainous region near the Argentine border has seen little development. The first road arrived to the area only in the last few decades. The area currently lacks the official protection that a park or reserve status would bring.

Native to Chile and Argentina, the huemul deer has been reduced to a population of approximately 2000 individuals. It is considered extremely endangered due to threats upon its natural habitat, which include cattle, domestic dogs and wild boar. Distributed between both countries, the huemul is increasingly restricted to remote sectors that are difficult to access. Continuing this monitoring program to collect scientific data on the behavior of the species will be crucial in developing conservation plans using a cross-border approach in conjunction with non-governmental organizations, the state and local communities.

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The finding is nothing short of a milestone, according to Andrés Diez, Project Coordinator of Puelo Patagonia. He explained, “Now it’s vital to guide public and private efforts to ensure the conservation of this population of huemuls in the long term.” For Diez, the Puelo river basin represents the biodiversity of the austral Andes, “By protecting the huemul, we are ensuring the conservation of one of the most emblematic species of our country.”

Trap cameras installed by wildlife experts documented the presence of adult deer, both male and female, and fawns. The study proceeded under the technical direction of the Wildlife-Rewilding team of Tompkins Conservation, a foundation with a successful huemul conservation program in Patagonia National Park since 2005.

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Cristián Saucedo, administrator of the Tompkins Conservation Wildlife Program, explained that the initiative will continue to develop over the course of a year. After documenting the presence of the species, he noted that the coalition will propose conservation strategies with a transboundary approach, “huemuls, condors and other species are an integral part of the Patagonian Andean ecosystem shared by both Chile and Argentina.”

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Game-changing Agreement for National Parks and Community Development in Chilean Patagonia

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The President of the Republic of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, came to an agreement today with an international conservation coalition led by Tompkins Conservation and The Pew Charitable Trusts to create a finance mechanism for the permanent, long-term management of the Route of Parks of Patagonia. The Route of Parks Fund: Protecting Patagonia Forever will implement sweeping improvements to national parks, increase their benefit to the communities of southern Chile, and bolster the long-term conservation of one of the last wild places on Earth.

Santiago, Chile, 10th May, 2019

The Chilean government has agreed on a proposal by a coalition of conservationists led by Tompkins Conservation and The Pew Charitable Trusts to ensure the future conservation of Patagonia. The fund uses an investment tool developed by financiers called Project Finance for Permanence (PFP) to provide an innovative solution to some of the most pressing needs of Patagonia, including long term national park funding, economic development, and climate change mitigation.

The funding is destined toward The Route of Parks, a 1,700-mile network of 17 national parks and over 60 Patagonian communities between Puerto Montt and Cape Horn. Over an extended period, the investment will elevate the national parks to international standards, ensure government financing towards permanent conservation and help neighboring communities to benefit from fast-growing domestic and international tourism. The exact dollar amount of the fund remains to be determined, as stakeholders, including the local communities, collaborate to develop the plan and calculate its costs over the coming months.

“This is a strategic alliance with a very moral significance to protect our parks, to expand our parks, and this is not only out of respect for nature, but also for our children, our grandchildren and future generations”, President Piñera said after a meeting held at La Moneda presidential palace with Tompkins Conservation and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The project is an instrumental response to the challenge of financing and managing a dramatically expanding park system after Tompkins Conservation’s historic donation to the state of Chile created seven new national parks in Patagonia and expanded three others. For Kristine Tompkins, President of Tompkins Conservation and UN Patron of Protected Areas, the milestone takes Chile one step further in becoming international model for conservation. She explains, “We consider this fund to be a keystone of our commitment with Chile post-donation to ensure the well-being of Patagonia’s national parks and the local communities. We are helping to conserve one of the most pristine corners of the planet.”

Francisco Solís Germani, director of the Chilean Patagonia project at The Pew Charitable Trusts explained “This is a unique opportunity to give our national parks the world-class protections they deserve. Working with the gateway communities of the national parks of Patagonia, and through the application of science and technical support, this innovative fund will help ensure that the heritage of the parks is conserved for future generations.”
Chile intends to innovate beyond similar landmark conservation projects implemented in Costa Rica (US$55 million), Bhutan (US$40 million) and the Brazilian Amazon (US$250 million). Park investment in Chile is approximately US$5.1 million per year for the national parks in Patagonia. Chile invests only US$1.54 per hectare in its national parks, far less than Peru (US$7), Costa Rica (US$30), or the United States (US$92). This commitment to increase investment in parks will position Chile to receive greater benefits from these natural and economic assets as tourism to the region grows.

10-05.19

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