On Wednesday, 2 November at the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), London, Bill Oddie introduced his BBC film Bill Oddie with Penguins, Parrots and Whales, much of which was filmed on WLT’s Ranch of Hopes Wildlife Refuge in Patagonia. The RGS screening of this film marked the Fifth Anniversary of the Ranch of Hopes (Estancia la Esperanza), and we were pleased to welcome José María Musmeci, director of Fundación Patagonia Natural (FPN) to the UK to coincide with the anniversary.
Achievements So Far
Creating a nature reserve
Through the expert management of FPN, WLT’s partner organisation and the region’s foremost conservation organisation, this project has seen a great number of achievements in its first five years. Having completed the original objective of purchasing and creating a private nature reserve, the challenges of managing the reserve have lead to a diverse range of activities to promote wildlife conservation for this arid, fragile landscape.
Wildlife conservation at the Ranch of Hopes
Sustainable grazing is now undertaken on the reserve, to demonstrate that sheep farming and conservation can co-exist. Sheep numbers have been reduced and unnecessary fences removed, which has resulted in a significant increase in numbers of guanaco resident on the Estancia. In addition, FPN have been working with local co-operatives to use the luxurious merino wool to produce beautiful scarves, ponchos and bags, the profits of which will go towards the reserve’s running costs. Other wildlife previously persecuted by neighbouring ranch owners, such as the wild cats, are also flourishing. These include Ranch of Hopes’ resident family of Pumas, and sightings have been made of a mother and kitten Geoffroy’s Cat. The new Sea Lion colony formed on the beaches of Ranch of Hopes is also going strong, and has increased in size by over 300% under the reserve’s protection.
Research also continues being carried out by both local and international researchers, who are examining aspects important to wildlife conservation, including:
- competition between the native Mara (Patagonian Hare) and the introduced European Hare;
- the effect of firewood collection on bird populations on the reserve;
- behavioural studies and radio-tracking of Guanaco;
- surveys into the attitudes of neighbouring ranch owners to conservation ethics.
Making the reserve sustainable
FPN is also working towards making the Ranch of Hopes as sustainable as possible, utilising wind power to extract water for the ground (and ‘grey water’ to reduce water usage), installing solar panels to power the accommodation on the reserves, and local volunteers have collected plastic drinks bottles and constructed a fully functioning greenhouse so that the reserve wardens can grow fresh vegetables on site.
José María travelled to UK to address the next challenge: how to ensure the reserve is financially sustainable for the long-term future. A development plan is being drawn up, which includes upgrading the visitor centre to accommodate groups of visiting students and researchers, and an expert on ecotourism development is currently looking into the feasibility of a guesthouse that will have minimum impact on the surrounding habitat.
Help Protect Patagonia's Wildlife
It is hoped that through innovative, non-detrimental development it will be possible to make Ranch of Hopes financially secure with no requirement for international support in the long term. However, at present there is still much work to be done and the Ranch of Hopes needs your support to keep it running while these plans are put in place. Please make a donation to the Coastal Steppe Project today to ensure that this success story can continue into the future.
More Information on the Coastal Steppe Project
To learn more about the Patagonia project visit the main project page: Help Save Patagonia's Wildlife.