First sighting of Puma on the Estancia la Esperanza (Ranch of Hopes) in Patagonia
The Estancia la Esperanza was acquired by conservationists over two years ago, and although footprints and remains of kills have been frequently encountered, it was not until last week that the first sighting of a puma occurred. Notoriously secretive and elusive, pumas have good reason to be shy as they are almost universally persecuted by the local sheep farmers. On the Estancia la Esperanza they are now protected, and it is thought that the resident pair have reared a single cub.
Another exciting recent sighting was of the rare Geoffroy's cat, an attractive spotted cat not much bigger than a domestic cat. The Director of the Fundación Patagonia Natural, José Maria Musmeci, who is in charge of the Estancia, saw an adult cat cross his path, and then heard a kitten mewing behind him. He took a snapshot of the kitten before retreating and leaving it in peace. Only months before the ranch was purchased, a Geoffroy's cat had been found poisoned.
Since the Estancia was purchased, crested tinamous (partridge-like birds) are among dozens of species that have benefited from protection - a flock of several hundred can now be seen feeding among the Estancia's horses. In the past they were shy and only seen in ones and twos, because they were hunted. Other species found include Eagle owls, Magellanic Penguins, rheas, maras, burrowing parrots, right whales, killer whales,sea lions, and several hundred guanaco (wild llamas).
The original farm buildings are already used for visiting biologists and students, and there are plans to build a visitor centre, as well as long-term plans for accommodation.
The 15,000 acre Estancia was purchased with funding from the World Land Trust, who still need to raise over $100,000 to pay of loans taken out to ensure its survival as a nature reserve. But the Estancia costs less than $5000 a month to run - remarkably good value for so much wildlife. For more details of the Estancia, photos of its wildlife, and online donations visit www.worldlandtrust.org or contact the WLT on (44) 1986 874422, for credit card donations by telephone.