As we mentioned yesterday Argentina is the center of bold efforts to reintroduce jaguars into areas from which they have been extirpated. The focus of yesterday’s story was Mariua and her two cubs, the first to be released into the 1.7 million acre Ibera National Park. The park is good jaguar habitat and contains a great amount of appropriate prey. Jaguars were exterminated locally about 70 years ago.
Today’s focus is Arami, the first jaguar born into the first captive jaguar breeding program to be released into the park. The Jaguar Reintroduction Center is at the heart of the effort. The center is inside the park. It was the dream of Kristi and Doug Tompkins. She was CEO of Patagonia and he founded The North Face clothing line. They turned their attention to conservation about 30 years ago. He died in an accident and she has remained head of Tompkins Conservation, one of the groups coordinating with the Argentinean government and other agencies.
Starting in 1997 the Tompkins’ began accumulating land with 395,000 acres. Due to the efforts of the groups, the reserve swelled to 1.7 million acres and merged with a regional park before becoming an Argentinean national park. The center is designed so that jaguars rescued can live there and hone their hunting skills without human contact. The jaguars are rescues from poachers, injured animals, and donations from zoos. The animals are observed remotely and capture their own prey with which the center is stocked. When they are considered ready, a gate is opened and they leave the center.
The strategy has been to release females first. The females maintain smaller ranges and are unlikely to leave the park. The males have bigger ranges but base their range on the presence of females and prey. They are unlikely to leave the park either. Each is collared and monitored.
The eight jaguars released all survived recent serious wildfires. The tracking information suggests they are eating well and the project so far seems to be a success. The park is estimated to be able to support about 100 of the jaguars. Tompkins and partners are not solely releasing jaguars. They have also been reintroducing other wildlife lost to the region, including giant otters and collared peccary.