The first attempt to reintroduce an extinct mammal in Argentina brings hope for restored ecosystems and increased ecotourism opportunities based on wildlife watching.
In June 2018, two new jaguar cubs were born in northern Argentina’s new Iberá National Park, marking a milestone in the efforts to bring the species back into the region after decades of absence. Now steps are being taken to reintroduce the giant river otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) as well.
After an extended period in quarantine, Alondra, an eight-year-old female from Budapest Zoo in Hungary, has been reintroduced into the Iberá wetlands. For now, she is in a tailor-made enclosure of 800 square meters on the island of San Alonso in the province of Corrientes.
This is part of an ambitious rewilding project pioneered by the Conservation Land Trust of Argentina, the foundation created by Tompkins Conservation, in partnership with the province of Corrientes and thanks to the collaboration of diverse national entities.
Along with illegal hunting and coastal development, the construction of large-scale dams contributed to the species’ local extinction in the middle of the 20th century. Now the giant otter is globally endangered and extinct in Argentina, but in the few areas where the animal is currently found, including Brazil’s Pantanal and the Amazon region, it has become a key tourist attraction.
According to Kristine Tompkins, President of Tompkins Conservation and a United Nations 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.”
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