CORRIENTES On June 6, Argentina will mark the one-year birthday of two jaguar cubs, the first born in the province of Corrientes in over 70 years. Arami and Mbarete, sister and brother, will play a key role in the pioneering rewilding project of CLT Argentina (Conservation Land Trust), the foundation created by Tompkins Conservation. In the coming year, the cubs will be prepared for their eventual release in the vast protected wetlands of Iberá.
The largest feline in the Americas, jaguars (Panthera onca) were once found from southwestern United States to Argentina. Today, the species is in critical danger of extinction in Argentina, having lost 95% of its historic range. The fragmentation of jaguar territory throughout the Americas has caused the worldwide population to fall by up to 25 percent in just over two decades.
Sebastián Di Martino, Rewilding Director of CLT Argentina, emphasized, “The jaguar occupies the top of the food chain in Iberá. Its presence is vital to achieve a healthy and complete ecosystem with a full complement of species serving their ecological role.”
The huge protected area of the adjoining Iberá National Park and Iberá Provincial Park offers ideal conditions for the comeback of the jaguar. The cubs are the first of their species born in the Jaguar Reintroduction Center, a state-of-the-art facility and the largest onsite breeding center for felines in the Americas. The cubs live in a specially-designed enclosure of 1.5 hectares with their mother, Tania. Remote video cameras provide wildlife technicians with detailed knowledge of the cubs’ development, while avoiding direct human contact which would compromise their ability to survive in the wild.
The center currently houses eight jaguars, including four reproductive specimens donated by zoos and rescue centers in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, which cannot be liberated, and four releasable cubs, two of which are orphans rescued from the wild. Tania, the mother of Arami and Mbarete, came from a zoo. Though missing a foot from a previous injury, she learned to hunt wild prey at the center and has shared her newfound expertise with the cubs.
Kristine Tompkins, president of Tompkins Conservation and UN Patron of Protected Areas, said, “After ten years of hard work to bring back the jaguar, we celebrate that these cubs born under our care are thriving at their one year mark. They will one day be the first generation of jaguars returning to roam free in the Iberá wetlands.”
The work of CLT in Iberá was first initiated by Douglas and Kristine Tompkins in 1997. In collaboration with the provincial and national government, the organization has donated over 60,000 hectares to the Argentine state to create the Iberá National Park, where it continues to fight the extinction crisis through working to recover locally extinct fauna, including the giant anteater, the pampas deer, the lowland tapir, the collared peccary and the red and green macaw.