Wanderlust: The return of the wild in Argentina's Patagonia Park - Freyja Foundation

The return of the wild in Argentina’s Patagonia Park

22.08.23 — Patagonia Park, Feature

“This is the time of the puma,” said Nicolás Guastavino, communications officer for the conservation foundation Rewilding Argentina. A smile broke across his lips as we drove into Patagonia Park. The sun was setting a deep orange over the mountains that mark Argentina’s border with Chile, and a herd of guanacos – a gangly mammal similar to a llama – was walking nonchalantly across the gorse-studded steppe as our car slowed to a crawl. “We have to keep our eyes open. I’ve seen puma along this road before,” continued Guastavino, a former fashion designer who has retrained in conservation. “The guanacos are out in the open so they can spot pumas approaching.”

I strained my eyes in the dying light as a sudden movement threw up dust on the road ahead. There was no sign of a puma; instead, a small flock of lesser rheas scurried across the hillside, the long necks of these flightless birds bobbing up and down in unison as they hurried away from the guanacos. Our quarry remained elusive, and it was almost dark by the time we arrived at La Posta de los Toldos, a former cattle ranch that is now a guesthouse for hikers and wildlife enthusiasts exploring Argentina’s ambitious new rewilding zone.

Plans are in motion to restore 180,000 hectares of nature-depleted ranch land in Santa Cruz Province that had been overgrazed for centuries by non-native livestock. Known as Patagonia Park, the project is being led by Rewilding Argentina and is impacting more than just wildlife. As fences are being torn down and new species reintroduced, locals are turning from ranching to eco-tourism in an effort to establish a nature-based economy in what could become Argentina’s next national park – or at least a giant extension to neighbouring Patagonia National Park. Its future is, as yet, still undecided.


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