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The renowned actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio published on his social networks a request addressed to the Argentinian Congress, asking for the treatment of the bill for the creation of the Ansenuza National Park and Reserve.

Leonardo DiCaprio requested through his social networks to the National Congress the treatment of the bill to move forward with the creation of the Ansenuza National Park and Reserve, he also stressed the global importance of this wetland. This request is in addition to the one made formally a few days ago by Natura International Argentina and Aves Argentinas.

In August of this year, a Provincial law was obtained by unanimous vote of the legislature of the province of Córdoba. Now, the urgent request is the approval of the National Law that will allow the creation of the Ansenuza National Park and Reserve. Having this protected area is of vital importance to ensure the conservation of the wetland formed by the Mar Chiquita Lagoon and the marshes of the Dulce River, a key site for the conservation of biodiversity at a global level and one of the most important wetlands in Argentina.

Lucila Castro, director of Natura International Argentina, stated: “The creation of the Ansenuza National Park will allow us to protect and develop, together with its local communities, one of the most important ecosystems in our country”.

The creation of the Park requires the approval of the Chamber of Deputies first, and then of the Chamber of Senators.

DiCaprio’s request states: “The Argentine government is ready to take the final steps necessary to make Ansenuza National Park a reality. This designation is a dream shared by local communities, the government of the province of Córdoba, the National Parks Administration, the Argentine Ministry of Environment, Aves Argentinas, Fundación Wyss, Natura International Argentina, and Re:wild,” emphasizing the importance of working together to achieve great goals.
“This is an excellent opportunity for the Chamber of Deputies to give us great news to close the year,” Castro pointed out, “since there is a general consensus for the creation of these protected areas, it remains to put it on the agenda and vote on it, which will give us a good reason to start 2022 moving forward in a mission that unites us: the conservation of one of Argentina’s most valuable wetlands.”

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.

(Matías Romano)

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.

(Matías Romano)

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.

 

By Yanina Druetta

If for a moment we look into the past, we can see and be assured that, from the first instant that humans appeared on the face of the earth, they began to relate closely with nature. Let us imagine that stage of human existence as a scene of chaos where life was hard and dangerous, but there was some minimum tranquility that guaranteed the reproduction of the species. These first humans adapted to the environment, learned from it, and understood how to take advantage of the resources provided without affecting the self-regulation of the ecosystem.

As time went by, the need to obtain new knowledge about the natural world increased, and a latent spark of curiosity made famous characters with great capacities of study and observation give way to their adventurous spirit. They set out for new worlds participating in epic journeys with the desire to visit unexplored places and discover an endless number of creatures and phenomena never seen before. Thus, the field of Natural History was born.

Two pioneers of this field were Charles Darwin and Alexander Von Humboldt. Twenty-three years after his expeditionary journey to the southern coast of America, Darwin published the book On The Origin of Species. There, he introduced the scientific theory that populations evolve during generations through a process known as natural selection.

Chilean Flamingos (Yanina Druetta/Natura International)

After an ambitious scientific expedition to America, Von Humboldt changed his perception of how the world and nature were related. Von Humboldt saw the world as a great organism in which all living beings were connected in a delicate balance, and he was the first to study climate change caused by human action.

Today we look at the past from a very different reality. Society continues to evolve, and the knowledge obtained is abundant and within everyone’s reach. But unfortunately, there is a distance between humans and nature that dates back to the beginning of the industrial era, where the damage caused to forests, land, water and wildlife by the consumption of raw materials and the indiscriminate use of non-renewable resources has increased dramatically.

This quest for wealth that does not contemplate a sustainable way of production crushes any ethical and conservationist thinking about the environment and leads us to rethink the role of today’s naturalist. We know a lot about biodiversity, natural phenomena, ecological roles, ecosystem services, and many other topics, but… What is it that makes this concept of being a Naturalist more useful nowadays? What is the objective that these people -who possess the same spark of curiosity as those ancient researchers- have pursued? Undoubtedly, the answers to these questions are intimately linked to the extractivist way in which we behave on the planet.

Dulce river marshlands (Yanina Druetta/Natura International)

A Naturalist lives very closely with their love for nature–studies it, forms alliances with it, defends it. And this “mode” is activated every time we begin to observe all the wonderful things that surround us, finally understanding that we are also part of that environment; we need to get closer to it again to achieve that harmonious coexistence that causes endless benefits for both.

A modern naturalist is probably not a faithful reflection of those pioneers of ancient times who only wanted to discover and understand. A modern naturalist, beyond wanting to learn and understand, is convinced that curiosity and passion for nature are the fundamental tools that can inspire an entire society’s desire to change its relationship with the natural environment, making people interested in it and involved in its care.

Many times, I believe that being a naturalist also means being that bridge that connects and tries to raise awareness about the need to find the right balance between development and conservation that allows us all to leave green footprints in our journey through life.

By Claudina Gonzalez

There is a lot of talk about sustainable tourism. Public sector plans and programs, private products and enterprises, academic programs and curricula always and without exception include the concept of sustainability. A different discussion is whether this inclusion is merely declaratory or if it is accompanied by good, real, and verifiable practices.

What is certain is that the development of sustainable tourism is a continuous process that requires good planning as well as constant monitoring of its impacts, in order to introduce necessary preventive or corrective measures. Ideally, the tourist experience must be both satisfactory for the traveler and educational, understanding tourism as an opportunity to learn more about the natural and cultural environments, to value them, to protect them and to be able to transmit this message to others.

Each year, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) frames its work agenda with a theme. Recently, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2017 as the “International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development” to highlight the potential of tourism and its contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). That same year, the organization strongly supported the statement “Why Tourism Matters”. The evidence included sustainable tourism’s capacity to generate employment, its contribution to the global Gross Domestic Product, economic growth, promoting understanding between peoples, cultural conservation, the enhancement and conservation of the environment and development in general.

In Argentina, tourism constitutes an extremely dynamic sector of the economy. In 2018, the production of goods and services associated with tourism was 5.7% of GDP. Jobs associated with tourism were 1,269,070, or 6.2% of the total economy, in the sectors of hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, transportation companies for tourism purposes (commercial airlines, tourist trains, fluvial, maritime, automotive); and in the usage of beaches, recreational parks, reserves, museums, convention centers, fairgrounds and other spaces for the reception of visitors and related activities.

Tourism is an activity that is present and dynamic in all regions and, very importantly, it is mostly made up of micro, small and medium-sized companies (practically the entire sector: 99.1%).

Sounds promising, doesn’t it?

However, all this activity must be properly managed. Careful management, respectful of natural and cultural values, is a commitment that must be assumed by governments at different levels, but also by host communities, tourism companies and providers, civil society organizations and, very importantly, the travelers themselves.

With sustainability as a focus, nature can drive a resilient economy in the long term. International organizations such as the Inter-american Development Bank and the World Bank, as well as the World Tourism Organization, reaffirm the value of nature tourism and its role in sustainable development: for poverty alleviation; as a factor for economic growth; as a tool for biodiversity conservation; and in its contribution to the fulfillment of key international agreements and conventions, such as the aforementioned “Agenda 2030”.

Argentina has an amazing endowment of natural resources that, with local and regional distinctiveness, extends throughout the country, forming a natural capital of great wealth and a tourist attraction of enormous potential.

Argentina contains enormous environmental diversity, outstanding for encompassing an almost complete gradient of ecosystems that include lowland subtropical forests, mountain forests, semi-arid subtropical forests, flooded savannas, deserts, humid temperate forests, grasslands, high mountain, marine and polar ecosystems. It contains the Guaraní Aquifer -one of the main subterranean freshwater reservoirs; it has the second-largest number of glaciers of any Latin American country; and is among the 15 countries in the world with the largest ice-covered surface, which makes it one of the main strategic freshwater reserves in the world.

Natural protected areas are an enormous attraction for tourism. According to information from the Federal System of Protected Areas (SiFAP), the country has more than 500 registered protected areas, of different jurisdiction and management, representing 13.29% of the national continental territory, with a total surface area of 36,947,536 hectares. National parks, interjurisdictional marine parks, national reserves, nature reserves and natural monuments, provincial parks, nature reserves, provincial reserves, municipal areas, private areas, wildlife refuges, Ramsar sites, Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage Sites make up some of the country’s main tourist attractions.

This diversity of environments, terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems, with their flora and fauna (vast collections of birds, fish, mammals, plants, amphibians and reptiles, among others), offers the possibility of thinking strategically about nature tourism as the engine of pandemic recovery, laying the groundwork for tourism to consolidate as an essential part of the national economy, framed within a broader agenda of sustainable development.

Nature tourism (including active tourism and ecotourism) was already one of the most developed tourism practices and one of the most in demand globally prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, with a growth rate three times higher than that of tourism in general, according to the UNWTO.

On the demand side, there are several social and demographic factors at the global level that explain this process of seeking nature and open spaces in travel: well-informed consumers with greater environmental awareness, on the one hand; and the densification and growth of cities, with lives marked by confinement in artificial spaces and affected by stressful situations, on the other. More than half of the world’s population lives in urban environments. This makes urban, artificial spaces routine and, by contrast, contact with nature in leisure time more valuable. In Argentina, the urban population is 92%. Unique and well-preserved natural settings, in contrast to other types of already saturated destinations, appear desirable and are highly motivating for this demand.

The natural scenery and the activities that take place in nature are desirable to tourists seeking transforming and memorable experiences in their travels. In addition to the above attraction factors, several studies point to the benefits of regular contact with natural spaces and the performance of activities in them, with positive impacts on physical and mental health.

From a developmental point of view, and given the enormous comparative advantages in terms of natural resources that characterize Argentina, a truly sustainable practice of nature tourism offers the opportunity to consolidate itself as an economically profitable and viable activity.

In addition, nature tourism tends to generate longer average stays and higher spending by travelers. The increase in the length of stay and expenditure variables can be explained, in part, by the variety of recreational activities that natural areas support. The greater the diversity of activities offered by a destination, the more attractive and interesting that area will be and, therefore, justify an extension of the stay with the consequent associated spending.

Sustainable nature tourism is, in turn, a vehicle for social development. This sector requires hiring local entrepreneurs and guides, and stimulates the development of tourism businesses (travel agencies, transportation, lodging, food, handicrafts, recreational and complementary activities), thus enabling the diversification of the productive matrix and the generation of local employment in many of the regional economies and communities that, in some cases are very neglected, and do not have the possibility of developing other productive activities.

At the same time, by including educational aspects and nature interpretation, it raises awareness among both locals and travelers about the importance of conserving natural environments, helping to minimize negative impacts on the environment.

In short, sustainable tourism (according to the UNWTO) is “tourism that takes full account of current and future economic, social and environmental impacts to meet the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.”

With the exception of a minority of natural protected areas created and devoted exclusively to scientific research, monitoring and environmental conservation, most natural areas conceive, along with the conservation function, a social function provided by the public use of these spaces, taking into account their recreational and educational tourism value.

In the generation of new protected areas as well as the proper management of existing ones, tourism can be considered a compatible activity, which requires providing destinations with appropriate infrastructure that prioritizes the planning and conservation dimensions in the public use of these spaces, and that enables access to and allows for visitation and enjoyment of natural destinations that are perceived as valuable but are still emerging.

There is an opportunity in the development of nature tourism. But also, and inseparably, there is a duty: to include sustainability in the daily activities.