Argentina has brought jaguars back to the vast Iberá wetlands, seventy years after the species was driven to local extinction through hunting and habitat loss.
An adult jaguar (Panthera onca) and her two captive-born cubs have been released into the wild, the first in a group, currently with nine individuals, slated to repopulate the species in the Gran Iberá Park, a protected 1.7 million acre wilderness of national and provincial parklands. Reestablishing this critically endangered species, of which only 200 remain in Argentina, is a crucial step in ensuring the ecological health of South America’s principal water basins and reestablishing a biological corridor for jaguars that once stretched continuously to the American Southwest.
“We have taken another great step for the preservation of the jaguar in Iberá,” announced Argentina’s Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Juan Cabandié. In Northeast Argentina, the jaguar has long been a symbol of strength in Guaraní heritage also representing the region’s cultural identity.
Saving the species was deemed a priority by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) at the World Conservation Congress in September, 2020. The largest feline in the Americas, the jaguar has lost over half its historical range, leaving some populations geographically isolated, losing their genetic diversity. When this happens, the jaguar is no longer able to fulfill its key ecological role as an apex predator.
“We congratulate the government of Argentina, Argentina’s National Parks and the Province of Corrientes for their commitment to rewilding this iconic species,” said Kristine Tompkins, president of Tompkins Conservation and UN Patron of Protected Areas. “As we start the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, it’s time to recognize the central role that rewilding can play in restoring climate stability and planetary health.”
Bringing back top predators such as the jaguar and the giant river otter, and seed bearers such as peccaries and macaws, is helping the Iberá wetlands recover from hunting and decades of cattle grazing and monoculture plantations, according to Sebastian Di Martino, Director of Conservation at Rewilding Argentina, a strategic partner of Tompkins Conservation. According to Di Martino, “Just as the return of gray wolves to Yellowstone National Park recalibrated whole ecosystems that had fallen out of balance, jaguars can restore these wetlands. Rewilding is also revitalizing the economy of small communities throughout Corrientes Province through wildlife-watching and related services.”
Iberá National Park was created in 2018 with land donations made by Douglas and Kristine Tompkins via Tompkins Conservation, in collaboration with Rewilding Argentina and local and national authorities. A one-of-a-kind facility, the Jaguar Reintroduction Center, located in the wetlands, has so far bred six cubs, which alongside rehabilitated wild jaguars, will be released throughout 2021. In coordination with Argentina’s National Parks, Rewilding Argentina monitors the released population via signals from VHF and GPS transmitters on collared adult jaguars.
Nov 11, 2020 –IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK, ARG On October 17, 2020, an unlikely romance was underway in the Gran Chaco. A wild jaguar, the first discovered in Impenetrable National Park, entered the pen of a captive jaguar with the promise of mating. Their encounter is the product of months of a strange, socially-distanced courtship undertaken across solid steel fencing, monitored by cameras and a team of hopeful scientists from Rewilding Argentina. If the pairing is successful, these jaguars will become the first wild-captive pair to mate in history, key progenitors in an effort to repopulate a top predator of the Americas.
Matchmaking wild and not-so-wild jaguars is a highly creative solution to the larger issue of saving wild jaguars, a priority put forth by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) at the most recent World Conservation Congress in September, 2020. The largest feline in the Americas, they have lost over half their historical range from the southern US to Argentina, a loss of habitat which has left several populations of the species geographically isolated and some individuals unable to encounter mating partners.
Jaguars were thought to be already extinct in El Impenetrable National Park, created in 2014 with help from Tompkins Conservation. Continue reading
Tompkins Conservation Chile, together with the community of El Amarillo, in the region of Los Lagos, implemented a restoration plan for the gateway village to Pumalín Douglas Tompkins Park. A new e-book tells the story.
November 12, 2020. Improving the quality of life, generating local pride and stimulating small-scale tourism were the objectives of the beautification project promoted by Tompkins Conservation Chile together with the community of El Amarillo, a town located in the southern access point of the Pumalín Douglas Tompkins National Park, 25 kilometers from Chaitén.
With hopes to inspire other communities to carry out similar projects, Tompkins Conservation Chile launched a digital book that compiles the history of this collaborative program, which created a facelift for El Amarillo through the restoration of facades and fences, extensive landscaping, signage by local artisans, and the construction of attractive architectural details like “chirimbolos” (decorative moldings).
Recently reintroduced red-and-green macaws have produced the first successful wild chicks in the Iberá wetlands in 150 years. Extinct throughout Argentina, the return of this species is also a key step in restoring native forests to this valuable ecosystem.
After several unsuccessful attempts, three red-and-green macaw hatchlings were born to a breeding pair reintroduced in 2019. The last registry of the species in Argentina was 150 years ago.
Rewilding the red-and-green macaw (Ara chloropterus) has proved an exceptional challenge. Rewilding Argentina, the strategic partner of Tompkins Conservation, started the process in 2015 with once-captive macaws that had never flown before. They required extensive training to live in the wild. So far, 15 macaws have been set free in Iberá and the nascent population is prospering.
The books Corcovado National Park, Yendegaia National Park and the 25-year Retrospective compile photographs and essays on nature and conservation, and will be available through Chile’s Public Library Network thanks to an alliance with the National Cultural Heritage Service.
A collaboration agreement signed by Tompkins Conservation Chile and the National Service of Cultural Heritage is promoting environmental knowledge and culture throughout Chile with the distribution of a thousand copies of Corcovado National Park, Yendegaia National Park and the 25-year Retrospective to libraries from Arica to Punta Arenas.
The 17 national parks located between Puerto Montt and Cape Horn store about 30% of the total carbon found in the soil and biomass in all of Chile. As one of the principal concentrations of carbon storage in South America, it’s crucial to the mitigation of global climate change.
Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, has contributed to the acquisition of three properties adjacent to Cerro Castillo National Park in Chilean Patagonia, which will be donated to the Chilean state in a few years. This purchase allows the launch of the ambitious National Huemul Corridor.
Rewilding Argentina has released five juvenile red-and-green macaws as part of an ongoing project to return this extinct species to Argentina.
As part of TED 2020 Uncharted, the President of Tompkins Conservation, Kristine Tompkins, presents a call to reimagine the future of our planet. She speaks as someone who followed up on a long stint as CEO of Patagonia with a thirty-year career in conservation. In this intimate TED Talk, she argues that restoring nature and carrying out rewilding on a large scale are actions essential for our collective survival that are not as impossible as we might think.
In the talk, she emphasizes, “Every human life is affected by the actions of every other human life around the globe and the fate of humanity is tied to the health of the planet. We have a common destiny—we can flourish, or suffer— but it’s going to be together.”
Not the usual TED talk, it was filmed at her dining room table due to the pandemic. You can find it at go.ted.com/kristinetompkins.
Tompkins Conservation, with assistance from the Chilean parks service, has released fourteen Darwin’s rheas in Patagonia National Park to reestablish a sustainable wild population. The initiative is part of a broader plan to rewild Patagonia.