Category Archives: Park Creation

The First Jaguar Cubs Are Born in Iberá After Decades of Absence

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The two new jaguar cubs with their mother.

Meet the newest additions to Iberá Park in Argentina.

June 6, 2018, is a historic day for Tompkins Conservation’s rewilding efforts, as it marks the arrival of two new jaguar cubs in Iberá Park, situated in the wetlands of northeastern Argentina. These two new cubs are not only the first newborns from our CLT Jaguar Reintroduction Program at Iberá Park, but represent the first jaguars born in decades in this region, where the species has been absent since the industrialization of the 20th century.

The jaguar is the largest and one of the most iconic felines in the Americas, but hunting, habitat loss, and other threats left the species in danger of extinction in Argentina. Having lost 95% of their original distribution, it is currently estimated that only some 200 individuals remain in Argentina, distributed mainly in isolated patches of the jungles of Misiones province and in the mountain slope forests (“yungas”) of Salta and Jujuy provinces.

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An aerial view of the Jaguar Reintroduction Program Center

To reverse the local extinction of this keystone species, we launched this pioneering Jaguar Reintroduction Program in 2011. Our team in Argentina – ranging from scientists and veterinarians to community stakeholders and policy makers – has been collaborating with the goal of breeding a generation of jaguars that could be released into their natural habitat and survive independently in the wild. With five mature jaguars – that came from zoos and rescue centers around South America and are not candidates for release themselves but can be bred – and 650,000 acres of fitting habitat teeming with caimans, capybaras and other food sources, the Jaguar Breeding Program at Iberá has incredible potential to support the return of this ecologically important and culturally iconic species.

The two new cubs are offspring of two of the program’s jaguar on loan from partnering institutions: Chiqui, the father, was born in the wild but lived in a rescue center after being orphaned by a hunter; Tania, the mother, came to the center after being born and raised in a zoo. It is notable that Tania is missing a leg from an incident she endured when she was just a cub. Despite this disability, she has learned to hunt for herself since joining the Jaguar Reintroduction Program and is now the mother of the first cubs born in Iberá in approximately half a century.

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Tania, the mother of the two new cubs.

In the words of Maite Ríos, the head of the Jaguar Reintroduction Program, “It’s great news that an animal with a disability and that seemed condemned to life in captivity, like Tania, is able not only to live in semi-natural conditions and hunt for herself, but to become the mother of the first cubs that could possibly live freely in Iberá soon. Tania’s history of overcoming obstacles inspires us to keep working and collaborating with other institutions to care for and restore the heritage of all inhabitants of Corrientes province and of Argentina. For the moment, we see that the cubs are suckling well from their mother, but we must be very prudent because we’re talking about a first-time mother who must still learn to raise her brood on her own, without interference on the part of humans. With a view to being able to free them, it’s very important for these tiny jaguars to grow up in the most natural manner possible.”

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The two new cubs rest with their mother, Tania. Photo credit: CLT Argentina.

With the birth of these cubs, an important step has been taken in Tompkins Conservation’s rewilding work in Iberá, which is the result of the dream and the vision of Douglas and Kristine Tompkins, who first fell in love with these vast, wild wetlands in 1997. Today, the area not only has the first jaguar cubs, but is home to recovered populations of species that had been lost, like the anteater, the Pampas deer, the tapir, the collared peccary and the red-and-green macaw. In addition, our team has already donated approximately 150,000 acres to the Argentine government to create the future Iberá National Park.

As Sofía Heinonen, CLT Executive Director, states, “This is a historic moment for Iberá and the rest of Argentina, as we see how our most endangered mammal, an emblem of our country, takes a step towards its recovery. Thanks to the efforts of hundreds of people and tens of organizations in Corrientes, Argentina and other countries over many years, Iberá is now recognized as being among the world’s major nature destinations and as an inspiring story of environmental and cultural restoration, and the jaguar is currently moving away from the abyss of extinction.”

We look forward to seeing these cubs and this program develop over the years to come and invite you to follow along.

For more information, visit www.proyectoibera.org.

Jaguar Reintroduction Program Contacts:

Alicia Delgado (CLT biologist): ali1979web@yahoo.com.ar. / +5493794256201

Gustavo Solís (CLT veterinarian): estabsanjose@hotmail.com  / +5493794409995

Media Contact:

Erin Louie Billman, Global Communications Director, Tompkins Conservation

louie@tompkinsconservation.org / +1 415 277 1846

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Pumalín National Park to Carry the Name of its Founder, Douglas Tompkins

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Photo: James Q Martin

President of Chile Recognizes Tompkins Conservation Founder by Naming New National Park in His Honor

PRESS RELEASE

February 27, 2018 — La Moneda Palace, Santiago, Chile

At the La Moneda Palace in Santiago, Chile, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, President of Tompkins Conservation, signed the decree to create “Pumalín National Park – Douglas R. Tompkins.” This marks the final act in creating the network of parks of Chilean Patagonia, which establishes over 10 million acres of new national parklands and includes what has been billed as the largest donation of land from a private entity to a country in history. With today’s signing and naming ceremony, the government of Chile recognizes Douglas Tompkins’ legacy by giving his first and most iconic conservation philanthropy project his name.

Kristine McDivitt Tompkins stated: “On behalf of our family and the Tompkins Conservation teams in Chile, Argentina, and the United States, I feel honored that Doug’s vision to create national parks is recognized in a permanent way, by putting his name on his beloved Pumalín Park.”

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Douglas Rainsford Tompkins, 1943-2015. Photo: Tompkins Conservation

Douglas Tompkins began the creation of Pumalín in 1992 by buying large tracts of land to protect the region’s pristine temperate rainforests. Today Pumalín encompasses 994,000 acres—larger than Yosemite National Park—including almost 725,000 acres donated by Tompkins Conservation. The park stretches from the heart of the Andes Mountains to the fjords of the Pacific Coast and harbors the endangered Alerce (Fitzroya cupressoides), some of the oldest living trees on the planet. Located on the scenic Carretera Austral, Pumalín welcomes visitors from Chile and around the world to experience its natural wonders via the extensive network of trails, campgrounds, cabins, and other facilities.

It is remarkable that Doug’s legacy and dedication to conservation is being honored today at the highest level of the Chilean government, as his efforts and intentions were met with opposition and controversy initially. The tradition of environmental philanthropy was not customary, and as a result, locals were skeptical when they learned of foreigners acquiring vast areas of land for conservation. Over the years, though, as the Tompkinses demonstrated their intentions and communities began to benefit, skepticism subsided. Today, Pumalín and Tompkins Conservation’s other projects like Patagonia Park and Iberá Park in Argentina are not only widely recognized and visited by tourists from all over the world, but as a consequence of conservation, they are becoming sources of economic vitality for their surrounding areas.

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Lago Negro, Pumalín Park. Photo: James Q Martin

Kristine McDivitt Tompkins added: “We never imagined that this conservation partnership, between the government of Chile and Tompkins Conservation, would generate the overwhelmingly positive reaction at a national and international level that it has. However, now is when the real work begins. We have to embrace these national parks as our own. We have to care for them, defend them from harm…To imagine a future in which human communities thrive and the non-human world flourishes and evolves according to its natural course… This depends on each one of us.”

Press Contact:

Erin Louie Billman

Global Communications Director, Tompkins Conservation

louie@tompkinsconservation.org

About Tompkins Conservation: Tompkins Conservation collaborates with the governments of Chile and Argentina, local organizations, and communities to create national parks—places of beauty, abundant wildlife, and recreation that serve as sources of income and pride to neighboring communities and the entire nation. For more information see www.tompkinsconservation.org/who_we_are or visit us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Tompkins Conservation was founded by Kristine and Douglas (1943–2015) Tompkins, business leaders from iconic American clothing brands including The North Face, Esprit, and Patagonia, Inc., who changed the course of their lives more than 25 years ago to devote their funds, time, and passion to fight the biggest crisis in the world: biodiversity loss. The Tompkinses ultimately concluded that creating large national parks where evolutionary processes could take their course was the most effective way to combat this loss. National parks represent the “gold standard” of biodiversity conservation, offering a unique set of ecological attributes, cultural values, ​​and economic benefits to local communities, while also guaranteeing long-term conservation. Tompkins Conservation is the leader in the Americas in what is known as “rewilding,” restoring natural ecosystems and reintroducing wildlife that has disappeared from a region because of human pressures.  

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President of Chile and CEO of Tompkins Conservation Sign Decrees Creating 10 Million Acres of New National Parks

This includes Tompkins Conservation’s two flagship parks, Patagonia and Pumalín

PRESS RELEASE

January 29, 2018 — Patagonia Park, Chile

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, President and CEO of Tompkins Conservation, today signed the decrees creating Pumalín National Park and Patagonia National Park Chile. The one million acres and world-class infrastructure they contain have been billed as the largest donation of land from a private entity to a country.

This marks the culmination of the pledge that President Michelle Bachelet and Kristine McDivitt Tompkins signed in March 2017 to create a network of five new national parks in Chile and the expansion of three others. Together, they are adding a total of more than 10 million acres of new national parklands to Chile, with one million acres of land from Tompkins Conservation and an additional 9 million acres of federal land from Chile. For scale, that is more than three times the size of Yosemite and Yellowstone combined, or approximately the size of the country of Switzerland.

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The Chacabuco Valley, Patagonia Park. Photo: James Q Martin

The signing of these decrees cements Chile as one of the global leaders in conservation today, a vision which President Bachelet touched on in her speech today. “With these beautiful lands, their forests, their rich ecosystems, we…expand the network of parks to more than 10 million acres. Thus, national parklands in Chile will increase by 38.5% to account for 81.1% of Chile’s protected areas.”

“I am proud of my husband Doug and his vision which continues to guide us, in addition to our entire team, for completing these two national parks and the broader network, a major milestone of our first 25 years of work,” Kristine Tompkins said. “While we will continue to help promote and safeguard these parks, we are beginning to turn our attention to more new conservation and rewilding projects in Chile and Argentina as we work to save and restore big, wild and connected ecosystems.”

Patagonia National Park Chile and Pumalín National Park will be key destinations in the network of parks of Chilean Patagonia. These parks are already open to the public, welcoming visitors from Chile and around the world to experience Patagonia’s natural beauty, which will now be permanently protected for all visitors and the creatures that call these parks home.

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Pumalín Park. Photo: James Q Martin

From its inception, Tompkins Conservation’s objective has been to donate privately acquired land to parks systems to be protected at the highest level of conservation for generations to come. To date, the organization and its partners have protected roughly 13 million acres of land to parks systems in Chile and Argentina, where they have worked with local and national governments, nongovernmental organizations, scientists, activists, conservationists and their local staff to achieve permanent conservation.

About Tompkins Conservation: Tompkins Conservation collaborates with the governments of Chile and Argentina, local organizations, and communities to create national parks— places of beauty, abundant wildlife, and recreation that serve as sources of income and pride to neighboring communities and the entire nation. For more information see tompkinsconservation.org/whoweare or visit us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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Pumalín Park. Photo: James Q Martin

Tompkins Conservation was founded by Kristine and Douglas (1943–2015) Tompkins, business leaders from iconic American clothing brands including The North Face, Esprit, and Patagonia, Inc., who changed the course of their lives more than 25 years ago to devote their funds, time, and passion to fight the biggest crisis in the world: biodiversity loss. After careful analysis, Kristine and Douglas concluded that creating large national parks where evolutionary processes could take their course was the most effective way to combat this loss. National parks represent the “gold standard” of biodiversity conservation, offering a unique set of ecological attributes, cultural values, ​​and economic benefits to local communities, while also guaranteeing long-term conservation. Tompkins Conservation is the leader in the Americas in what is known as “rewilding,” restoring natural ecosystems and reintroducing wildlife that has disappeared from a region because of human pressures.

Press Contact:

Alison Kelman

Communications Director

alison.kelman@tompkinsconservation.org

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Patagonia Park. Photo: James Q Martin

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Cerro Castillo Becomes a National Park; Isla Magdalena is Expanded

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Cerro Castillo National Park. Photo: Jimmy Chin

On October 2, on Chile’s National Environment Day, President Michelle Bachelet signed the decree creating Cerro Castillo National Park and extending Isla Magdalena National Park. The re-categorization of Cerro Castillo National Park, formerly a national reserve, will not only increase the protection status of this refuge for huemul deer, but will also protect one of the most distinctive landscapes in the region of Aysén. This decree will also create a destination for tourists that will directly benefit the towns of Puerto Ibáñez and Villa Cerro Castillo.

With the creation and expansion of these two parks, the process initiated by the Protocol of Agreement signed on March 15, 2017 between the Government and Tompkins Conservation has officially started. The Protocol calls for the creation of the “Network of National Parks of Chilean Patagonia,” which will add more than 10 million acres of national parklands. This is the largest creation of national parks in the last 50 years; a public-private effort, an historic legacy and hopefully an impetus for the consolidation of a system of protected areas on a global level.

As said by the President during the signing of these decrees, “Someone might ask: Is this an extravagance or a luxury, perhaps?” Like her, we think not, because this protection makes these places available to national and foreign visitors and opens up opportunities for economic development for the surrounding towns, through nature tourism and associated services.

Tourism stands as the main economic driver and the most sustainable option for these regions. National parks are the best way to increase the value of a landscape, and to make known the international recognition and to make known these attributes from a conservation instrument of long tradition and international recognition.

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Staff Spotlight: Ignacio Jiménez Pérez, CLT Conservation Director

_CJR6869Name: Ignacio Jiménez Pérez

Role: Conservation Director, CLT Argentina

Year joined CLT: 2005

Hometown: Valencia, Spain

Main area of study: “Institutional Ecology,” which studies how organizational arrangements can make conservation more effective

Ignacio came to CLT Argentina over ten years ago with a wealth of knowledge and experience in the field of wildlife conservation. Beginning his career with a degree in Animal Biology from the Universidad de Valencia in Spain, and a Masters in Wildlife Management and Conservation from the Universidad Nacional in Costa Rica, Ignacio has gained decades of field research and management experience from around the world. From the study and management of manatees in Costa Rica and Nicaragua to the assessment of endangered species protection in Spain, Ignacio’s work to research, manage and restore wildlife has put him at the top of his field. Also a professor, Ignacio has taught well over 20 courses in Spain, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Argentina, and Chile about interdisciplinary issues related to conservation. His research and conservation efforts have been featured in various scientific journals, books, and other publications.

Beginning in 2005, Ignacio’s work with CLT initially focused on endangered species recovery in the Iberá wetlands, which is home to species such as the giant anteater, pampas deer, and jaguar. Now taking on a more communications-based role, Ignacio is still the leading authority on rewilding in the Iberá region. We had the chance to ask Ignacio a few key questions about his path to CLT and what inspires him in his work today. Below is our conversation:

Q: How did you first get involved with The Conservation Land Trust?

A: I was travelling with my Argentinean girlfriend (now my wife and mother of two beautiful, wild daughters) through Pumalín in January 2005. I had just moved to Argentina from Costa Rica and was looking for some exciting conservation work to do. While I was at the cozy café at Caleta Gonzalo I was wondering, what is this organization that is trying to manage a private reserve as a top-notch national park? Then I saw the book about the 10 first years of CLT. Going through the pages I discovered that they had a project in a place called Iberá in Argentina, which sounded slightly familiar to me. Then I saw that they were planning on reintroducing six species of mammals. I knew that nobody had tried something like that in South America before, and I thought, “these guys are crazy!” And then, “if someone can do this, maybe it’s them.” A few months later I got in contact with Sofía Heinonen, who was just starting a conservation team and looking for someone with experience in endangered species recovery. The rest, as they say, is history!

Q: Can you please explain a bit about your role at CLT Argentina?

A: From 2005 to 2015 I was in charge of coordinating our rewilding program aimed at reintroducing locally extirpated species. By 2015 it was obvious that my role was getting too broad, because I had to manage a growing team of professionals who were actually in charge if the animals, getting all the permits from authorities, which is one of the toughest jobs in conservation, and also managing communication, fundraising, and training. It was just too much. With Sofía, our Director in Argentina, we decided to split the job and look for a person who would be mostly focused on the actual rewilding, while I would focus more on strategic communication and institutional issues for all of CLT Argentina.

Q: What does rewilding mean to you?

A: It means working hard to get things better in the natural world, not only avoiding that they get worse. It’s something proactive and inspiring, instead of just being reactive and “on the defensive.” Through rewilding we can really improve the state of the natural ecosystems that we are entrusted to care for, and also inspire people to support conservation!

Q: Can you explain a bit about Iberá’s jaguar reintroduction program? What are the program’s goals for 2017?

A: The jaguar program in Iberá is the apex of the Iberá Rewilding Program, both because it is the most difficult species to work with (you don’t want to work with an animal that it’s either hated/feared or loved, with no space in between!) and because it implies bringing back one the most important pieces of the whole ecosystem (i.e. it’s a top predator; like the “dome” of this “natural cathedral” that is the Iberá landscape). In the end we were surprised by the high level of support of the local population, because they see jaguars as a “vanished distant relative” since many local gauchos compare themselves with jaguars, as part of their cultural and natural heritage.

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Naguel and Tobuna, Iberá Park’s first two jaguars to the Jaguar Breeding Center. Photo: CLT Argentina

Q: You were recently working in South Africa. Can you explain a bit about what you were doing there?

A: I went to South Africa both for a family experience and for a professional goal. At the family level it was a great opportunity for my daughters (8 and 9 years old) to live in another culture, improve their English and enjoy amazing wildlife and landscapes. For the family as a whole, it was extremely satisfying. At the professional level, through my job in rewilding in Iberá (and my personal interest in organizational issues) I came to discover that Southern Africa, as a region, was decades ahead of the rest of the world regarding the restoration of extirpated populations of large animals. Knowing this, I couldn’t help but travel there to learn and bring that practical knowledge to South America!

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Ignacio with Carito (one of CLT wildlife veterinarians) during a visit to a rhino conservation project in South Africa. Photo: Ignacio Jiménez Pérez

Q: What does Iberá becoming a National Park mean for the park’s rewilding initiatives?

A: The Iberá Program was the result of Dougs and Kris’ vision from the beginning, and this was very clear: making a vast national park that could stand the test of time and bring back the missing ecological pieces (i.e. extirpated fauna). Without the park and its long-term legal protection, there would be no rewilding, because there would be no protected habitat for the reintroduced giant anteaters, pampas deer, tapirs, jaguars, etc.

The project that inspires me the most nowadays, is a book that we are finishing that combines more than two decades of personal experience managing, visiting, studying and learning from conservation programs in four continents. In CLT Argentina we privately call this book “The Manual,” since it combines most of the experience gained in 25 years of Tompkins Conservation with what we have learned working in and visiting other conservation programs. We believe that we have been able to develop a ground-proofed method to create and manage protected areas and rewild large areas of the planet.

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Watching mountain gorillas in Rwanda. Photo: Ignacio Jiménez Pérez

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