At the end of June 2023, 41 guanacos were reintroduced in Luro Park, in the province of La Pampa, Argentina. A species native to the region, which became extinct a little more than 40 years ago from that area. Only a week before this event, in the El Carmen Nature Reserve, in the state of Coahuila, Mexico, the first American bison babies were born; their disappearance in the region dates back to a century ago. With rewilding, primitive natural ecosystems can be recovered.
What is rewilding?
Rewilding, or renaturalization, also called restocking, is the reintroduction of native species that became extinct due to human degradation. In addition to the species mentioned above, others such as condors, jaguars, scarlet macaws, giant anteaters and giant otters are recovering their ancestral ecosystems.
In this way, it is a matter of reconstructing complete habitats, with their functional ecosystems, to repopulate areas that, by direct human action, were depopulated of some specific species. The guanaco is one of these species, which almost completely disappeared from central and northern Argentina.
Rewilding was born in the United States in the mid-1980s and seeks to restore an entire ecosystem, not only to reintroduce animals into them, thus favoring biodiversity. The objective is to restore ecological corridors, connectivity and large carnivores.
Ecosystems are determined by the fauna and to complete them there must be no missing pieces. According to the Spanish biologist Ignacio Gimenez, who monitors the introduction of the guanaco in the Argentine pampas, the introduction of animals is not enough if the ecosystem does not allow it. This happens when the ecosystem suffers some modification of its original state.
Chile and Argentina formed a working team
For some years now, Rewilding Argentina and Rewilding Chile have been working together on the reintroduction of the Andean condor in the region of the Patagonian Atlantic coast. This species inhabited the area until a century ago. It became extinct due to human activity. Thanks to the Chile-Argentina Binational Andean Condor Conservation Program, the species returned to its ancestral home.
According to Carolina Morgado, director of the program for Chile, the collaboration of ornithologists from both countries made their success possible. The same director works in Chile on the reintroduction of the huemul and the ñandú.
According to Sebastian Di Martino, in Argentina, the first species to be reintroduced to its habitat is the giant anteater in 2007. This was followed by the Pampas deer in 2009 and the collared peccary in 2015. Di Martino is conservation director of Rewilding Argentina. He also worked on other programs such as the reintroduction of the jaguar, the scarlet macaw and the giant otter. He explains that to achieve success in rewilding, government support is essential. In Mexico, for example, for bison reintroduction, they received support from AES Mexico, CEMEX and the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature.