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Reflections on a trip to Patagonia

The Esperanza Reserve
Reflections on a trip to Patagonia

By Tim Kunin - founder of EcologyFund

Last week I returned from a 5 day visit to EcologyFund's Patagonian project. This was my first visit to Argentina and the experience was wonderful.

I have been clicking for this preserve since February, but this was my first chance to see it. The Patagonian steppe is arid and mostly flat, but the wildlife is abundant and the reserve is beautiful with a large number of varied habitats including 8 miles of coast with an enormous pebble beach, and several bluffs, badlands, cliffs, and small canyons. There is even a lagoon for flamingos and ducks.

There was a penguin and a bull sea lion on the beach when we arrived, and a hairy armadillo, several burrowing owls, a large number of maras (a large rodent also called the Patagonian hare), and a nesting pair of lapwings seen from the dirt access road. Guanaco (a wild llama) is numerous on the 7000 hectare reserve, and John Burton, Director of the Rainforest Trust, had found puma scat on his last visit. Don Pedro, the previous owner, claims to have seen killer whales take sea lions directly off the beach.

We arrived for a prepared feast to celebrate the new reserve with an asado (barbeque) prepared by Don Pedro and his wife. We ate almost an entire sheep that was roasted on a corner fireplace while listening to stories of the Estancia and drinking lots of wine. As part of the Rainforest Trust delegation we also toured Puerto Tombo's famous penguin colony (w/ 500,000 penguins) and saw beaches covered by elephant seals on the Peninsula Valdez immediately south of the new reserve. Southern Right whales were seen just off shore, including one that breached.

The Esperanza ("hope") Reserve has passed one hurdle; papers have been signed, initial payments made and loans secured. The generosity of supporters of the Rainforest Trust and The Massachusetts Audubon Society, and the clickers and sponsors of EcologyFund has made this possible. The Fundacion Patagonia Natural is the new owner of the largest nature reserve in the Patagonian Steppe. With continued support all loans will be paid and additional land secured. It was a great trip and a wonderful reminder of what can be accomplished through clicking.

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