After jaguars went locally extinct in Corrientes Province 70 years ago, the first adult male from Rewilding Argentina’s innovative jaguar reintroduction program has been set free. Over the last year, the release of eight jaguars heralds the restoration of this key species to the massive Iberá Park.
CORRIENTES, ARGENTINA — At 8:19pm on the first day of 2022, Rewilding Argentina released the first adult male jaguar (Panthera onca) into the 1.8-million-acre Iberá Park. Jatobazinho’s return to the wild comes three years after his dramatic rescue in the Brazilian Pantanal. The 4-year-old first appeared in 2018 outside the Jatoba Rural School. Starving and feeble, he had just braved the powerful currents of the Paraguay River in search of wild habitat, but instead washed up in a populated area.
“The plight of Jatobazinho echoes the dilemma of many species today which have been displaced by the encroachment of human settlements, agriculture, poaching and other threats, and struggle to find suitable conditions to hunt and mate,” says Sebastián Di Martino, Conservation Director of Rewilding Argentina.
The rewilding program at Iberá seeks to recover the ecological role of its apex predator, the jaguar, in a country where the species has lost over 95% of its original range. At the Jaguar Reintroduction Center in Iberá Park, Jatobazinho recovered and mated with onsite females, fathering four jaguar cubs which were released together with their mothers in 2021, followed by an adult female released in September, 2021. The Iberá wetlands are one of South America’s largest and most important watersheds.
Key species, like the largest feline of the Americas, play a fundamental role in the structure and functioning of ecosystems; their return restores health and integrity, essential components that help mitigate the global of loss of biodiversity, climate change and the appearance of pandemics. In Iberá, wildlife watching opportunities also help generate employment through nature-based tourism.
Kristine Tompkins, President of Tompkins Conservation and UN Patron of Protected Areas, celebrated the news. “Human pressures place one million species at risk for extinction in the coming years. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We believe in a future where human communities and the natural world can thrive together. Rewilding puts us on that path.”
The restoration of jaguars to the Iberá wetlands has been made possible by the collaboration between the countries of Argentina and Brazil, the Chico Mendes Institute for the Conservation of Biodiversity, the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul, the Campo Grande Wild Animal Rehabilitation Center, the Onçafari team at the Caiman Ecological Refuge, the Government of Corrientes, the National Parks Administration, Rewilding Argentina Foundation, its strategic partner Tompkins Conservation, and other philanthropists.
A driving force to curb the worldwide climate emergency and the biodiversity crisis, Tompkins Conservation has spent three decades working to rewild a healthy planet with big, wild, and connected landscapes where human communities, animals and plants can thrive. Collaborating with public and private partners, the organization has driven the creation and expansion of 15 national parks, including Iberá National Park, protecting 14.8 million acres.