A captive-born jaguar released into Argentina's Iberá National Park last year has given birth to two cubs – the first to be born wild in the protected wetland in 70 years, the Rewilding Argentina conservation body said Thursday.
A hidden camera confirmed keepers' suspicions of the happy event, showing the mother jaguar caring for her offspring, said Magali Longo, coordinator of the foundation's Jaguar Reintroduction Centre (CRY).
"The mating of free jaguars and the birth of a new generation in freedom is excellent news for the project that seeks to halt the extinction of this species," Rewilding Argentina said in a statement.
It also raised hopes of "regenerating a healthy population of jaguars" in the region that was once their natural home.
The cubs are the offspring of Arami, born at the CRY in 2018 and released into the protected park last September, and Jatobazinho, a male rescued in Brazil, donated to the Argentine project in 2019 and released into the park in December.
They were among eight jaguars released into the Iberá park last year, where they live like their wild ancestors: hunting capybaras, wild pigs and deer.
"If both cubs survive – something we should know in the coming weeks – the jaguar population of Iberá will rise to 10," said Sebastián Di Martino, the foundation's conservation director.
This was significant, he added, considering that only about 15 jaguars are known to exist in the Chaco ecoregion that includes the park.
The CRY breeding and rehabilitation centre has operated for ten years in Argentina's Corrientes province, where the jaguar went locally extinct 70 years ago.
It is estimated that between 200 and 300 jaguars remain in Argentina.