A female jaguar and her two cubs were released in the Iberá National Park in the northeastern province of Corrientes this week, in the culmination a conservation programme run by the Rewilding Argentina NGO.
The protected area spans almost 200,000 hectares of wetland and mountains with a variety of fauna and attracted around 45,000 tourists a year before the pandemic. A total of six jaguars have now been released into the Iberá National Park this year, after having been absent from the territory for 70 years.
“It is proven that the return of species that are key in the functioning of ecosystems, like the jaguar, helps reverse the crisis of species extinction, and helps us reduce carbon dioxide to stop global warming and avoid new pandemics,” said Sebastián Di Martino, conservation director for Rewilding Argentina.
Fulfilling that prophecy this time round is Juruna the jaguar, and her two cubs, born last December. She will join her sister Mariua, who was released into the park with her own two cubs back in January. Conservationists with Rewilding Argentina and another environmental NGO, Tompkins Conservation, will monitor the felines with GPS collars.
The project of reintroducing the jaguars into the wild has taken a long time, around a decade. Juruna and Mariua were rescued from the north of Brasilia by the Brazilian Environmental Institute, just a few months after they were born. Their mother had been killed by poachers.
“It is the first time in history that an attempt is made to return this big cat to an environment where man has wiped it out,” said the NGO in a statement.
The jaguar is considered critically endangered due to human causes. In Argentina alone, 95 percent of them have been wiped out, with around 200 to 300 thought to be still alive, scattered across the Yungas of Salta, the Misiones jungle and Chaco and Formosa.
Deforestation, the loss of more and more land to agriculture, as well as forest fires and poaching are to blame for the jaguars' disappearance in Corrientes Province.
“This project places Argentina at the forefront of the global restoration of natural environments and endangered species, while [simultaneously] bringing employment, development and welfare to the communities in the region,” said Governor Gustavo Valdés.
The jaguar is the latest in a few key species that have been reintroduced into the Iberá National Park, such as the deer of the Argentine Pampas region, the giant anteater, the collared peccary and the red macaw.
The news was hailed by a number of conservation activists, including the actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who praised the initiative in a post on Instagram.