By Marcela Tittarelli
From Santa Fe Province, Argentina, we want to share experiences and impressions of people who have had the opportunity to observe maned wolf specimens in the wild. To try to convey those moments of emotion, I invite readers to imagine that they are in a huge pasture or an open forest of espinillos, quebrachos, and carob trees; we can also envision a ravine, stream, or lagoon. Let’s imagine that we are walking through one of these environments and suddenly a “fire” appears in front of us, the intense orange color of its coat surprises us and stands out in this landscape.
Because of this coloration, in some places it is called Doradillo.On the other hand, its particular silhouette and ungainly gait have earned it the name in some places of “fox foal”. Its size, its raised fur on the back and its loud vocalizations at night, have led erroneously to relate it with the legend of the Lobizón, generating unfounded fears.
The maned wolf (Aguará guazú) is a tireless walker of the environments described above, and can surprise us with a jump or we can see it diving like a dolphin, while it displays its hunting skills in a sea of tall grasses. Many times it is often observed concentrating deeply or looking “beyond”, without noticing the human presence that records the moment through a camera. It has also been recorded bordering watercourses or flooding areas. Solitary, slow-walking, and shy, this canid does not represent a danger to livestock or humans.
Although the bibliography mentions that it is most active during twilight and nighttime hours, we have received records of specimens observed at midday and even in the early afternoon.
Regarding its ecological role, on the one hand, we know that this species uses connected landscapes of grasslands, wetlands, and forests, demonstrating the impact that altered or fragmented landscapes have on the survival of the fauna associated with these environments. In terms of its diet, it is a great seed disperser and is the most important predator in this region after the puma.
Thanks to the records provided by people, surveys, and surveys conducted in the Province of Santa Fe, we can say that the main threat to this and many species of our fauna is the alteration of the landscape, which leads to many individuals dying from being run over on roads or approaching urban or semi-urban areas and being attacked by dogs or being exposed to diseases of domestic animals, as well as extreme weather events (droughts and floods).
Especially thanks to the diffusion of technology we receive a large number of records of maned wolves killed by collisions on our roads and in contrast, we also receive many records of sightings.
In 2003 this species was declared a Provincial Natural Monument (Law 12182) and then in 2009 the Conservation Plan (Version 1) was published, which includes an Action Protocol for the Rescue of specimens and Collection of information which is disseminated through the Security Forces, Municipalities and Communes, and guides the ways to act in case of an encounter with an individual. In this way, we differentiate the cases that warrant an intervention from the State together with Security Forces to rescue a specimen, from those cases that are identified as sightings or findings of dead specimens. In all cases, the information we obtain is entered into a spreadsheet that allows us to evaluate threats, distribution, etc., and thus be able to propose concrete conservation actions.
When we receive notification that a maned wolf is found inside urban constructions or rural buildings due to an unusual event, we proceed to place it in a shelter and evaluate whether it is feasible to release it in a nearby natural area. If it is wounded or there are indications that it has been in captivity, then it is transferred to the wildlife center to be evaluated by veterinary professionals. After a period of quarantine and rehabilitation, many of these individuals can be released.
We always remind you not to intervene directly, but to contact the security forces if you find an individual in a conflictive or injured situation; on the other hand, if you observe a free animal in a peri-urban or rural area, simply sharing the location, date and photo or film with us is very valuable information.
It is important to highlight that there is great communication and coordination with fauna personnel from other provinces, with institutions involved in the protection of biodiversity, with veterinarians, biologists, researchers, and others to share information on how to act when individuals need veterinary assistance or to be relocated in natural areas or when veterinary consultations are made, thus creating a collaboration between professionals and involving different institutions for the conservation of this species.
In this sense, and no less important, the question arises: What can each one of us do to help protect this species? And this is necessarily extended to all the fauna and the ecosystem where it lives. As an answer, we believe that it is important to understand and internalize that as a species we are part of the life that develops on our planet, that it is essential to respect, protect and coexist with the life forms and the health of our environment. All the actions and activities that we carry out in our cities or communities, depending on how they are executed, can have negative repercussions on the ecosystems and then on our health. So it is essential to maintain or restore healthy ecosystems.