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August 23, 2000


Center for Eco-Tourism and Education to be established near famous Valdes World Heritage Site

Ann Arbor, MI - The Rainforest Trust of the United Kingdom today announced that they have raised funds to make a down-payment on over 20,000 acres of spectacular and vital Patagonia Coastal Steppe land in Argentina. The purchase is made with the help of the U.S.-based Visitors to ( have made free donations to the Patagonia project since the site launched in February, resulting in nearly $10,000 in contributions to the project.

The land that will be preserved is part of one of the largest single habitats in the world. It is situated in the buffer zone to the Valdes Peninsula, which was recently declared a World Heritage Site, and is near the town of Puerto Madryn. The land is home to a complex ecosystem including over 300 guanacos (wild llamas), Patagonian foxes, maras (Patagonian hares), hairy armadillos, rheas (large flightless birds), tortoises, burrowing parrots and at least two pumas. The stunning coastline reveals an abundance of marine life, including sea lions, elephant seals, penguins, killer whales, and right whales.

John Burton, Chief Executive of the Rainforest Trust, wrote about his recent sighting of the majestic right whales off the coast of the peninsula:

"Looking out of the hotel window into the Golfo Nuevo the Atlantic ocean was steaming -- the sea was 8°C and the air only 4°C. Through the early morning fog the water was churning and bubbling too. There were whales, whales and more whales, all of them surfacing and blowing. The ocean, close to shore, looked just like a huge bowl of whale soup -- a description given by university student Marina Passera who was watching this spectacular site at the same time."

The recent decline of wool and sheep markets has made a number of Estancias (sheep estates) available for purchase in this region. The Rainforest Trust has made a down-payment on a farm that includes 7.5 miles of coastline, which is ideally situated for protection of both land and marine wildlife. However, funds are still needed to complete the purchase and to formalize a conservation plan with the local Fundacion Patagonia Natural to make the area sustainable through educational opportunities and eco-tourism.

"EcologyFund is committed to helping the Rainforest Trust complete their goal in Patagonia. The preservation of these habitats, as well as eco-friendly situations that allow for the public's enjoyment of them, is core to our vision," adds EcologyFund founder Tim Kunin. "We need the help of people who understand how precious these ancient ecosystems are--so that our children's children can have the same kind of wonderful experience as John Burton."

Those wishing to help raise funds can make a free daily donation of 60 square feet of land by visiting Visitors to can click on the "donate" button under "Create a Patagonia Coastal Reserve," which will trigger a payment by the EcologyFund sponsors. In addition, traditional tax-deductible donations can be made to the Massachusetts Audubon Society in the U.S., and U.K. taxpayers can take advantage of Gift Aid.

The Rainforest Trust was founded in 1989 with the intention of protecting lands in Belize. Since its foundation, the Trust has developed projects in the Philippines, Brazil, Costa Rica, Eucador and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Many businesses, over 20,000 individuals, and numerous schools and groups have generously supported the WLT. is a grassroots movement that has harnessed the power of the Internet to save land in the world's most treasured natural habitats. is the first "click-to-donate" site that helps preserve land and protect endangered species in both North and South America.

Each visitor to can save 235 square feet of wilderness land all over the world each day in less than a minute spent on the site. Since its launch in February of this year, has attracted more than 50,000 visitors who have donated funds to protect more than 3 square miles (almost 83 million square feet) of land in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Amazon Basin, and Patagonia. sponsors supporting the Patagonia project include Novica, CharityMall, and Other site sponsors include Cool Savings, Wine Accents, and Working Assets. The Environment News Service is an official partner of founder Tim Kunin is available for interviews: [email protected] or 781-461-6161.

Jessica Frost, Publicity Director
216 E. Huron St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104
ph: 734-213.7777
fx: 734-913-5555
[email protected]

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