Extinct in Argentina, the Giant River Otter returns to Esteros de Iberá

The first attempt to reintroduce an extinct mammal in Argentina brings hope for restored ecosystems and increased ecotourism opportunities based on wildlife watching

Friday, March 22, 2019

The first giant river otters (Pteronura brasiliensis) have arrived to the Argentine province of Corrientes. The event is considered a vital part of an ambitious rewilding project pioneered by CLT Argentina (Conservation Land Trust), the foundation created by Tompkins Conservation, in conjunction with the province of Corrientes, and the collaboration of diverse national entities. The arrival of Lobo, a four-year-old male from the Parken Zoo of Eskilstuna, Sweden, and Alondra, an eight-year-old female from the Budapest Zoo in Hungary, hails the return of the top aquatic predator to the Iberá wetlands.

Credit: Ramón Moller Jensen

Credit: Ramón Moller Jensen

Along with illegal hunting and coastal development, the construction of large-scale dams contributed to the species’ extinction in the middle of the 20th century. In areas where the animal is currently found, including Brazil’s Pantanal and the Amazon region, the animal has become a key attraction for wildlife watching and conservation-based tourism.

According to Kris Tompkins, President of Tompkins Conservation and UN Patron of Protected Areas, the arrival of the giant otters marks a significant step forward for the rewilding of the Iberá wetlands.

“We are creating a model for rewilding that can be applied to areas around the world,” says Tompkins. “As a conservation foundation all of our work is focused on strategies that fight the species extinction crisis that we face – from creating national parks to bringing back those species that have gone missing.”

The giant river otter is endangered in the majority of the countries countries where it is currently found. Sebastián Di Martino, the director of conservation of CLT Argentina, acknowledges that the huge protected area offered by the adjoining Iberá National Park and Iberá Provincial Park offers ideal conditions for its reintroduction. “The project’s principal objective is for Iberá to continue to become whole and functional from an ecological perspective, especially now that the threats which had originally led the giant otter to extinction are no longer present.”

Credit: Jorge Peña

Credit: Jorge Peña

Reaching up to 1.8 meters long, the giant otter is the largest aquatic mammal in the region and the longest otter worldwide. Characterized by a flat tail and white throat, they are usually active during daytime, as well as territorial. A social animal, giant otters live in family groups of up to fifteen individuals and subsist primarily on fish.

The process of adapting these animals to life in the wild will require an extended quarantine period with routine check ups in San Cayetano, Corrientes. The pair will gradually be introduced to each other before their release in the heart of the wetlands in San Alonso.

The rewilding project has long term plans to continue until a healthy population of giant otters can reestablish itself in Argentina.

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Kristine Tompkins Celebrates Implementation of Network of National Parks of the Chilean Patagonia and Signs Commitment to Collaborate with Chile’s Minister of National Assets

Pumalín Douglas Tompkins National Park, Chile February 11, 2019

Chile’s Minister of National Assets, Felipe Ward, joined Kris Tompkins at Pumalín Douglas Tompkins National Park to celebrate the establishment of the Network of National Parks of Chilean Patagonia, which includes eight national parks.

“After a long process, thanks to the largest private donation in history for conservation purposes, we have reached the culmination of this network of parks. It is a very important milestone because national parks are a garden that belongs to all Chileans, and we have to take care of them,” said Minister Felipe Ward during his visit to Pumalin Douglas Tompkins National Park.

This network was established with the donation of over 1 million acres (407,000 hectares) from Tompkins Conservation in March 2017, which added to Chile’s contributions and allowed for the creation of 5 National Parks (Melimoyu, Patagonia, Kawésqar, Cerro Castillo, and Pumalin Douglas Tompkins) and the expansion of three others (Hornopirén, Corcovado and Isla Magdalena). In total, the network is over 11 million acres (4.5 million hectares).  

The Minister of National Assets and Kristine Tompkins also signed an agreement whereby the minister is committed to supporting the Route of Parks of Chilean Patagonia, a 1,700-mile scenic route between Puerto Montt and Cape Horn, which connects 17 National Parks and 60 communities, offering an opportunity for local economic development through tourism as a consequence of conservation.

“The Network of Parks is the origin of something even bigger: The Route of Parks of Chilean Patagonia, which protects more than 28 million acres (11.5 million hectares) under the category of National Parks. Chile is a leader in conservation, thanks to strong collaboration between the public and private sectors. The Route of Parks will not only serve as an effective tool to preserve ecosystems and counteract climate change, but will boost local economies,” added Kristine Tompkins.

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Kawésqar National Park: The Second Largest National Park in Chile is Created

The new Kawésqar National Park includes over 7 million acres of protected terrestrial land, while protecting almost 6.5  million acres of surrounding marine areas under the National Reserve category. With this milestone, the Protocol of Agreement signed between Tompkins Conservation and the State of Chile for the creation of the Network of National Parks of the Chilean Patagonia.

Photo Credit: Antonio Vizcaíno

Photo Credit: Antonio Vizcaíno

Santiago, Chile 

Made up of over 7 million acres of virgin ecosystems, the new Kawésqar National Park is the second largest national park in the country, after Bernardo O’Higgins National Park (over 8.6 million acres). Thanks to the Protocol of Agreement signed between the State of Chile and Tompkins Conservation in March 2017 and the acceptance of a new decree,  Kawésqar National Park, located in the Magallanes region, has become reality. The March decree led to the creation of five new National Parks (Melimoyu, Patagonia, Kawésqar, Cerro Castillo and Pumalín Douglas Tompkins) and the extension of three others (Hornopirén, Corcovado and Isla Magdalena).

Carolina Morgado, executive director of Tompkins Conservation Chile, said: “This is the last decree that was missing from the Protocol of Agreement signed during the administration of President Michelle Bachelet. With this milestone, the Network of Parks is created, which is the starting point of the Patagonian Parks Route, a scenic route encompassing  17 National Parks and more than 60 surrounding communities. The route spans over 1,700 miles, between Puerto Montt and Cabo de Hornos, where tourism as a consequence of conservation becomes an alternative for local economic development.”

Kristine Tompkins, President of Tompkins Conservation and UN Environment Patron of Protected Areas, said: “Chile is a global example of conservation, given that more than 20% of its territory is protected, while marine protected areas reach more than 40% of the Exclusive Economic Zone. This has been possible thanks to the work of different actors of the public and private sector, who have seen in conservation not only an effective tool to preserve ecosystems and counteract climate change, but also as an engine of local economies.” The environmental leader added: “Personally I would like to congratulate the different governments of Chile that have worked hard for the creation of five new National Parks and the extension of three others. The Tompkins Conservation team has worked hand in hand with the different administrations to make these parks a reality, so I would also like to highlight their effort and commitment.”

Photo Credit: Antonio Vizcaíno

Photo Credit: Antonio Vizcaíno

The new Kawésqar National Park incorporates the former Alacalufes Forest Reserve, new fiscal land and the donation from Tompkins Conservation. In addition, the approximately 6.5 million acres of marine areas are protected under the category of National Reserve. Its landscapes are a mosaic composed of mountain ranges, forests, glaciers, fjords, lakes, wetlands and valleys that form virgin ecosystems of unparalleled beauty and habitat of a great diversity of species. The Magallanes Rainforest dominates the landscape with species such as Coigue de Magallanes, Ciprés de las Guaitecas and Canelo. In terms of fauna, Huemul, Puma, Gato Montés, Culpeo Fox and Chilla stand out, as well as several bird species.

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Two New Jaguars Join the Wildlife Reintroduction Project in Iberá National Park

Corrientes Province, Argentina

Two female jaguars, each less than two years old, are being incorporated into the Jaguar Reintroduction Project based in Iberá Park and led by The Conservation Land Trust (CLT)—founded by Tompkins Conservation—and the government of Corrientes Province, Argentina.

Juruna—whose name means black mouth in Guarani, the native language of Iberá— and Mariua—whose name refers to a region in Brazil—come from the Scientific Breeding Institute NEX located in Aparecida de Loloia, a small town north of Brasilia, Brazil. These two jaguars were brought there when they were a few months old by the authorities of the Brazilian Environment Institute after poachers killed their mother. While at that center, they received the necessary attention to be able to be translocated to the Jaguar Reintroduction Project in Iberá Park, Argentina.

Credit: Matías Rebak

Credit: Matías Rebak

Juruna and Mariua underwent medical examinations while in Brazil to evaluate their genetic health and overall well-being to ensure that they could be incorporated into the Jaguar Reintroduction Project. Health examinations will continue while they are in quarantine in Corrientes, Argentina, where they will stay for approximately one month until they are transferred to the Jaguar Reintroduction Center.

The Jaguar Reintroduction Center already holds five adult jaguars and two cubs, which were born in June 2018 after more than half a century of the species’ absence from the region. The center was built in 2015 as part of CLT’s Rewilding program with the help of many institutions, organizations, companies, and the people of Corrientes. Juruna and Mariua are the sixth and seventh individuals to be incorporated into the project, adding to the other five jaguars from other rescue centers and zoos from Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil.

Credit: Matías Rebak

Credit: Matías Rebak

The transfer of these jaguars highlights the joint work of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centers such as NEX, conservation projects such as the one carried out by CLT, the Corrientes government, and the Brazilian and Argentine governments through the environmental authorities (Environment and Sustainable Development Office), sanitation authorities (SENASA), and customs, to enable the arrival of Juruna and Mariua to Argentina.

What is the role of Jaguars in Iberá?

The jaguar is the largest feline in the Americas, and is currently in critical danger of extinction in Argentina, where it is estimated that around 200 individuals remain. It has been the top predator of the Iberá wetlands, and its presence in this environment is essential in order to  maintain a healthy ecosystem and support the local communities surrounding the park.

Jaguars’ beauty, symbolism, and cultural significance in Corrientes represent an opportunity for ecotourism, which promotes economic development and pride in the surrounding communities. This has been the case in the Pantanal of Brazil, where sightings of jaguars in their natural environment have become an international ecotourism attraction.

Credit: Matías Rebak

Credit: Matías Rebak

About Tompkins Conservation and CLT

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 help protect wild nature in Chile and Argentina.

Tompkins Conservation has been working on the creation of national parks in Argentina since 1997 through CLT, totalling more than 1.2 million acres of protected land throughout the country. To this end, the foundation acquires and restores private lands, reintroducing their missing native species and working with local communities so that they can benefit from the transformation of their regional economies once the acquired lands become public. Finally, they donate the land to the national government in order to ensure its preservation by law within the maximum protection category. CLT’s mission is to promote the next economy through conservation and rewilding, to benefit the human and nonhuman world. The projects in Argentina are Iberá National Park, El Impenetrable National Park, Patagonia Park, and Marine Protected Areas Yaganes and Namuncurá – Banco Burdwood II.

Press Contact:

Pía Moya L.

pia.moya@tompkinsconservation.org

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Argentina Creates First Two Marine National Parks Comprising Over 25 Million Acres

  •  The country reaches almost 10% of protected sea honoring its commitment for the year 2020.
  •  These areas will  preserve species and benefit fishing activities by recovering stocks and improving captures surrounding the reserve.
Photo Credit: Lyra Films

Photo Credit: Lyra Films

December 12, 2018 — Buenos Aires, Argentina

 Today Argentina approved by law the creation of two marine protected areas, “Yaganes” and “Namuncurá-Banco Burdwood II”, in the southernmost area of the Argentine sea, thus increasing to nearly 10% the country’s marine protected areas, honoring the nation’s commitment to the 2020 goal agreed on by the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

The approval of this law is the result of a long participatory process carried on by experts from national ministries, scientific institutions and civic organizations, which started with the identification of areas of high conservation value and the analysis of the Argentine sea based on criteria defined by the CBD.

“This is a great moment for our country. About 36% of the Argentine territory is marine, of which only 2.6% was protected, until today. With this new law, we are reaching a goal established by the National Government and supported by the whole political spectrum that enacted this law,” declared Martina Sasso, coordinator of the Marine Program of Conservation Land Trust (CLT) Argentina, the organization founded by Tompkins Conservation.

Photo Credit: Lyra Films
Photo Credit: Lyra Films

These new areas harbor continental slope waters with cold-water coral reefs, an ecosystem that is considered globally vulnerable. These marine protected areas seek to preserve the whole ecosystem, which includes feeding and breeding zones of attractive commercial species, and migratory routes of large marine mammals. Additionally, Yaganes MPA borders the recently created Cabo de Hornos marine park in Chile. With the creation of this marine protected area in Argentina, the whole exclusive economic zones of both countries on the Drake Passage will be managed with a conservation focus.

Kristine Tompkins, president of Tompkins Conservation, expressed: “I am especially pleased to hear that Argentina has taken an enormous ecological leap forward and declared over 25 million acres of new marine parks in the southern Atlantic ocean. This brings the country to nearly 10% protection of its total marine systems, making an historic move on the part of President Macri’s government and showing that treaties to conserve and preserve ecological systems are working. As a representative of the United Nations for Global Protected Areas I am especially pleased that Tompkins Conservation could play a role in establishing these parks, along many other groups and individuals. TC looks forward to working together with the Argentine Government and other NGOs and foundations toward new, high level conservation.”

Photo Credit: Lyra Films
Photo Credit: Lyra Films

Economic and conservation benefits

Marine protected areas contribute to fishing activities in the long term, by allowing the recovery of stocks and improving captures surrounding the reserve. These areas help fisheries apply for and obtain sustainability certifications, enabling them to reach high-standards markets and thus get higher profitability.

MPAs are also an essential tool for conservation: they restore populations of species of commercial interest, protect marine biodiversity and critical habitats, and favor climate change by protecting marine species that play a significant role on carbon storage. Additionally, MPAs encourage scientific research and education, and protect sites of cultural and archeological interest.

About Tompkins Conservation and CLT

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 help protect wild nature in Chile and Argentina.  Tompkins Conservation has been working on the creation of national parks in Argentina since 1997 through CLT, totalling about half a million hectares of protected land along the country. To meet this end, the foundation acquires and restores private lands, reintroducing their missing native species and working with local communities so that they can benefit from the transformation of their regional economies once the acquired lands become public. Finally, they donate the land to the national government in order to ensure its preservation by law within the maximum protection category. CLT’s mission is to promote a next economy through conservation and rewilding, to benefit the human and nonhuman world. The projects in Argentina are Iberá National Park, El Impenetrable National Park, Patagonia Park, and Marine Protected Areas Yaganes and Namuncurá – Banco Burdwood II. CLT’s marine conservation program supports the national government on the compliance of its commitments to protect 10% of its marine systems, working along provincial governments to protect coastal areas of high priority on the blue corridor and the bioceanic peace park.

Press Contact

Pía Moya L.

pia.moya@tompkinsconservation.org

Photo Credit: Lyra Films
Photo Credit: Lyra Films

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