Press Release (ePRNews.com) - AYSEN, Chile - Mar 20, 2017 - The Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network (WFEN), a global community dedicated to the development and promotion of products and tourism that contribute to the conservation of threatened wildlife and to the economic vitality of rural landscapes, is pleased to announce the awarding of Wildlife Friendly™ Certification to Patagonia Park (http://www.patagoniapark.org/), part of Conservacion Patagonica (http://conservacionpatagonica.org/home.htm) whose mission is to promote the creation of national parks in Patagonia (Argentina and Chile), in collaboration with neighboring communities and local, regional, and national governments, that save and restore wildlands and wildlife, inspire care for the natural world, and generate healthy economic opportunities for local communities.
Originally one of the region’s largest sheep ranches, Estancia Valle Chacabuco changed ownership several times over the past century, resulting in an overgrazed and degraded landscape. When Kris and Doug Tompkins first visited the Valle Chacabuco Valley in 1995, CONAF (Chile’s National Forest Service) had long recognized the need to prioritize the protection of these unique and biodiverse ecosystems. With help from Tompkins Conservation and Conservacion Patagonica, the 170,500-acre Estancia Chacabuco was acquired. In subsequent years several other adjacent properties have been purchased from willing sellers, bringing the currently total area of protected land to close to 200,000 acres. Eventually, Patagonia Park will be combined with the Jeinimeni National Reserve to the north and the Tamango National Reserve to the south, to create a 640,000-acre Patagonia National Park. This will allow bi-national trans-boundary access across the border of Chile and Argentina and will provide ecosystem continuity, wildlife corridors, and tourist driving and hiking circuits.
“For Conservación Patagonica it is an honour to receive the Wildlife Friendly™ Certification in Chile which is a landmark supporting the feasibility of traditional livestock activities in Patagonia coexisting with top predators such as pumas,” said Paula Herrera, a veterinary doctor and livestock manager for the Park. “It has been a long process, over eight years involving changes in the carrying capacity, herding practices and a strong involvement of local gauchos. Today, we are very proud to reach the point where our neighbors recognize our status as a protected area, and the high quality of our products (meat, wool and breeding stock) associated with different livestock management practices such as the pioneering use of livestock guardian dogs (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEeXyVDwYKg) to reduce predation in southern Patagonia.
“We are thrilled to recognize the incredible restoration, conservation and coexistence work happening here in Patagonia Park,” said WFEN Executive Director Julie Stein during a recent visit to the park to meet with the wildlife team and other staff. “It is truly inspiring to witness first hand this celebration of wild places including the hard but essential work to coexist with apex predators like pumas and by proving that the local economy can be supported through Wildlife Friendly™ tourism and products. We don’t have to choose between thriving businesses and thriving biodiversity – both are possible and in fact are inter-dependent.”
Efforts at Patagonia Park include extensive grasslands restoration, removal of over 400 miles of fencing which fragmented critical habitat by blocking wildlife corridors and entangling species like Guanacos in barbed wire leading to mortality. There is also an endangered Huemul Deer recovery program, a breeding center for Darwin’s Rheas, an Andean Condor reintroduction effort, and Puma monitoring, as well as a thriving livestock guard dog program to protect livestock from predation.
Patagonia Park is an initiative led by Conservación Patagonica since 2004, whose main goal throughout has been the formal donation of the land to the Chilean State to create Patagonia National Park, an agreement which was finalized and signed by the Chilean President President Michelle Bachelet (http://www.tompkinsconservation.org/news/2017/03/15/presi…) on March 15 2017.
“The need for people and wildlife to not only coexist but to benefit each other is a challenge for protected areas and neighboring lands and communities,” said Cristián Saucedo, Conservation Director. At Conservación Patagónica, we believe this, and we invite other Chilean initiatives to be part of the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network, because we see this as a unique opportunity which links tourism, conservation, local communities and caring for the land as all part of our long- term vision for wild lands in Chile.”