Saving Endangered Darwin’s Rhea in Patagonia

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.

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National Geographic magazine features Tompkins Conservation

We are very honored that the May edition of National Geographic features Tompkins Conservation in an article by the renowned science writer David Quammen. The article is part of a series on The Last Wild Places, a decade-long National Geographic Society initiative that supports six conservation initiatives around the world with the ambitious goal of preserving thirty percent of the planet by 2030.

Photo: Tomás Munita / National Geographic Photo: Tomás Munita / National Geographic

For us, a feature in the iconic yellow-bordered book, which started in 1888 and is published in 40 languages, represents a unique opportunity to share our 29-year collective effort to protect, restore and rewild the Southern Cone with people all over the world. We hope some may even be inspired and moved to act on behalf of threatened ecosystems in their own backyards.

You can read the article here and see the related documentary feature about our work to restore nine native species to Argentina’s Ibera wetlands, including once extinct jaguars, giant river otters and macaws. For more on this story, visit National Geographic.


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(Español) Inauguración “Casa Museo Lucas Bridges”, en Parque Nacional Patagonia, busca homenajear al hombre que trajo desarrollo ganadero y cultura a la región de Aysén

Sorry, this entry is only available in European Spanish.

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Rewilding Argentina moves forward with the first birthday of Ibera’s Jaguar Cubs

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.

Jaguar cubs

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.

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Rare Andean Deer Found in Chile’s Northern Patagonia

Thanks to an alliance between the non-profit Puelo Patagonia, Tompkins Conservation and the National Geographic Society, researchers have made the first scientific discovery of endangered huemuls (south Andean deer) in the Puelo Valley, a remote area of Chile’s Lakes District. This groundbreaking finding makes evident the need for further monitoring and protection of the species.


May 28, 2019- Thanks to the accounts of rural settlers living in a remote region of the Andes, rare huemul deer have been discovered in an area without previous record of the species. While the Puelo Valley is located only one hundred miles from the regional capital of Puerto Montt, via an unpaved road and ferry transit on the Tagua Tagua Lake, this mountainous region near the Argentine border has seen little development. The first road arrived to the area only in the last few decades. The area currently lacks the official protection that a park or reserve status would bring.

Native to Chile and Argentina, the huemul deer has been reduced to a population of approximately 2000 individuals. It is considered extremely endangered due to threats upon its natural habitat, which include cattle, domestic dogs and wild boar. Distributed between both countries, the huemul is increasingly restricted to remote sectors that are difficult to access. Continuing this monitoring program to collect scientific data on the behavior of the species will be crucial in developing conservation plans using a cross-border approach in conjunction with non-governmental organizations, the state and local communities.


The finding is nothing short of a milestone, according to Andrés Diez, Project Coordinator of Puelo Patagonia. He explained, “Now it’s vital to guide public and private efforts to ensure the conservation of this population of huemuls in the long term.” For Diez, the Puelo river basin represents the biodiversity of the austral Andes, “By protecting the huemul, we are ensuring the conservation of one of the most emblematic species of our country.”

Trap cameras installed by wildlife experts documented the presence of adult deer, both male and female, and fawns. The study proceeded under the technical direction of the Wildlife-Rewilding team of Tompkins Conservation, a foundation with a successful huemul conservation program in Patagonia National Park since 2005.


Cristián Saucedo, administrator of the Tompkins Conservation Wildlife Program, explained that the initiative will continue to develop over the course of a year. After documenting the presence of the species, he noted that the coalition will propose conservation strategies with a transboundary approach, “huemuls, condors and other species are an integral part of the Patagonian Andean ecosystem shared by both Chile and Argentina.”

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Game-changing Agreement for National Parks and Community Development in Chilean Patagonia


The President of the Republic of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, came to an agreement today with an international conservation coalition led by Tompkins Conservation and The Pew Charitable Trusts to create a finance mechanism for the permanent, long-term management of the Route of Parks of Patagonia. The Route of Parks Fund: Protecting Patagonia Forever will implement sweeping improvements to national parks, increase their benefit to the communities of southern Chile, and bolster the long-term conservation of one of the last wild places on Earth.

Santiago, Chile, 10th May, 2019

The Chilean government has agreed on a proposal by a coalition of conservationists led by Tompkins Conservation and The Pew Charitable Trusts to ensure the future conservation of Patagonia. The fund uses an investment tool developed by financiers called Project Finance for Permanence (PFP) to provide an innovative solution to some of the most pressing needs of Patagonia, including long term national park funding, economic development, and climate change mitigation.

The funding is destined toward The Route of Parks, a 1,700-mile network of 17 national parks and over 60 Patagonian communities between Puerto Montt and Cape Horn. Over an extended period, the investment will elevate the national parks to international standards, ensure government financing towards permanent conservation and help neighboring communities to benefit from fast-growing domestic and international tourism. The exact dollar amount of the fund remains to be determined, as stakeholders, including the local communities, collaborate to develop the plan and calculate its costs over the coming months.

“This is a strategic alliance with a very moral significance to protect our parks, to expand our parks, and this is not only out of respect for nature, but also for our children, our grandchildren and future generations”, President Piñera said after a meeting held at La Moneda presidential palace with Tompkins Conservation and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The project is an instrumental response to the challenge of financing and managing a dramatically expanding park system after Tompkins Conservation’s historic donation to the state of Chile created seven new national parks in Patagonia and expanded three others. For Kristine Tompkins, President of Tompkins Conservation and UN Patron of Protected Areas, the milestone takes Chile one step further in becoming international model for conservation. She explains, “We consider this fund to be a keystone of our commitment with Chile post-donation to ensure the well-being of Patagonia’s national parks and the local communities. We are helping to conserve one of the most pristine corners of the planet.”

Francisco Solís Germani, director of the Chilean Patagonia project at The Pew Charitable Trusts explained “This is a unique opportunity to give our national parks the world-class protections they deserve. Working with the gateway communities of the national parks of Patagonia, and through the application of science and technical support, this innovative fund will help ensure that the heritage of the parks is conserved for future generations.”
Chile intends to innovate beyond similar landmark conservation projects implemented in Costa Rica (US$55 million), Bhutan (US$40 million) and the Brazilian Amazon (US$250 million). Park investment in Chile is approximately US$5.1 million per year for the national parks in Patagonia. Chile invests only US$1.54 per hectare in its national parks, far less than Peru (US$7), Costa Rica (US$30), or the United States (US$92). This commitment to increase investment in parks will position Chile to receive greater benefits from these natural and economic assets as tourism to the region grows.


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Tompkins Conservation entrusts Pumalín and Patagonia Parks to Chile

Concluding the largest private land donation in history, Kristine Tompkins, President of Tompkins Conservation and UN Patron of Protected Areas, made the formal hand over of Pumalín and Patagonia Parks to the Chilean state in a ceremony in Pumalín Douglas Tompkins Park. Representing the Chilean state were the Minister of Agriculture, Antonio Walker, and the Executive Director of Conaf, José Manuel Rebolledo.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

This event finalizes the 2017 protocol agreement between the Chilean government and Tompkins Conservation to create five national parks and expand three others with Tompkins Conservation’s donation of over 1 million acres and land contributed by the state. These expanded protections position Patagonia, now home to 91% of the acreage of protected lands in Chile, as a model for future conservation. It has also propelled the vision for The Route of Parks of Patagonia, a scenic 1,700-mile conservation route of 17 national parks spanning from Puerto Montt to Cape Horn.

Pumalín Douglas Tompkins National Park

Pumalín Douglas Tompkins National Park

Kristine Tompkins stated, “After years of work together with Doug and the team at Tompkins Conservation we have achieved our dream. The parks that we created with so much love are now national parks which belong to everyone. The real work begins now. Taking care of these parks will not only be the responsibility of the government, but also the work of society, of each one of us, so that this patrimony may be conserved and protected for the future.”

Tompkins Conservation continues to collaborate with Argentina and Chile in large-scale conservation projects. To date, the nonprofit organization has helped conserve more than 14.2 million acres, creating national parks, in collaboration with governments, other NGOs, and philanthropic partners. Tompkins Conservation is also dedicated to marine conservation and rewilding extinct and endangered species in the Southern Cone.

Pumalín Douglas Tompkins National Park

Pumalín Douglas Tompkins National Park

Pumalín Douglas Tompkins National Park
Total area: 994,332 acres
Tompkins Conservation donation: 724,853 acres

In 1992, the foundation created by Douglas Tompkins began acquiring large tracts of temperate rainforest with the goal of their permanent conservation, in what is now Pumalín Douglas Tompkins National Park. This new national park protects 25% of Chile’s endangered alerce forest, a protected species with individuals over 3000 years old, in addition to lakes, waterfalls and volcanoes. Fauna includes pudu (a minature deer), puma, Commerson’s dolphin, Darwin’s frog and Chile’s only marsupial, the rare monito del monte. Park infrastructure includes a cafe, cabins, campgrounds, an information center and 11 trails. It’s located 114 miles south of the regional capital of Puerto Montt, accessible by road and ferry, on the Carretera Austral.

Patagonia National Park
Total area: 752,503 acres
Tompkins Conservation donation: 206,983 acres

Patagonia National Park features the greatest terrestrial biodiversity in the region, with habitats ranging from Patagonian steppe to lenga forest and wetlands. It’s home to numerous endangered and threatened species, including ten percent of the global population of huemul, the south Andean deer. A former estancia, its central area was historically overgrazed and poorly managed as a product of intensive ranching. Through a long process of restoration and rewilding, the native grasslands have recovered and wildlife has returned in numbers, including herds of guanaco, a South American camelid, flamenco, puma and a population Darwin’s rhea under restoration. Top notch infrastructure includes a lodge, restaurant, visitor center and museums, as well as campgrounds and trails. Patagonia National Park consists of the Tompkins Conservation donation in addition to the former national reserves of Jeinimeni and Tamango, plus fiscal land. It’s located 180 miles south of Coyhaique, the regional capital of Aysen.

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Tompkins Conservation Supports the Global Deal for Nature

In late 2020 in Kunming, China, world leaders will gather to set new targets to protect nature under the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity. The last global targets, set in 2010, were simply not ambitious enough, and we have seen the consequences. According to the Living Planet Report (2018) in the past few decades animal populations have declined by 60%, one-fifth of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed, and we’ve lost one-half of the world’s shallow water coral reefs. Only about 15% of the world’s lands and 5% of the world’s oceans are now formally protected.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

A new United Nations report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has been compiled by 500 scientists and experts and shows an alarming trend that could undermine life as we know it on Earth: “The loss of trees, grasslands and wetlands is costing the equivalent of about 10% (or $8 trillion) of the world’s annual gross domestic product (GDP), driving species extinctions, intensifying climate change and pushing the planet toward a sixth mass species extinction.” It’s clear that we must reverse this trend, and the time is now.

Credit: Global Deal For Nature

Credit: Global Deal For Nature

In 2017, 49 scientists authored a landmark paper, “An Ecoregion-Based Approach to Protecting Half the Terrestrial Realm” that called for a Global Deal for Nature (GDN) — a companion to the Paris Climate Agreement — to promote increased habitat protection and restoration, national and regional conservation strategies, and the empowerment of indigenous peoples to protect their sovereign lands. The goal of such a deal would be to protect half the terrestrial realm to halt the extinction crisis while sustaining human livelihoods. A key concept in the paper is that each of the world’s 846 terrestrial ecoregions needs its own plan shared by the countries whose boundaries overlap its geophysical extent.

Credit: Global Deal For Nature

Credit: Global Deal For Nature

In April 2019, many of these scientists published a new paper called “A Global Deal for Nature: Guiding Principles, Milestones, and Targets” that explains why protecting half the Earth is needed, and presents a science-driven plan to save the diversity and abundance of life on Earth. It builds upon many scientific proposals for protecting key biodiversity areas and the latest climate science, calling for a milestone of at least 30% of lands protected by 2030 with an additional 20% in climate stabilization areas. It is also the first to include land, freshwater, and marine ecoregions in one global plan.

A petition launched by One Earth, an initiative of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, with Avaaz, RESOLVE, National Geographic Society, Tompkins Conservation and other environmental groups urges nations to agree to protect half the Earth to help solve both biodiversity loss and the climate crisis.

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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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