After a fire spread through Estancia la Esperanza, consuming over half of the reserve, WLT’s partner Fundación Patagonia Natural (FPN) has reported they still cannot be sure of the extent of the damage to wildlife.
The fire has weakened the top soil of the land, which has made it difficult for FPN staff to find traces of animal movement, but on daily poacher patrols they have observed a conspicuous absence of wildlife and fear that the biodiversity was greatly affected by the event.
FPN have managed to rebuild the guanaco viewing station and are observing the behaviour and movement of guanacos, who seem to have decreased in number but it is uncertain whether they have left the reserve or were taken by the fire.
Unique wildlife of Patagonia
The wildlife of the Patagonian Steppe is uniquely adapted to a habitat which battles extreme conditions such as near constant winds from the Antarctic, extremes of temperature and severe aridity. This has created a community of distinctive species which can only be found in Patagonia, such as the Darwin’s Rhea (Rhea pennata), Patagonian Skunk (Conepatus humboldtii), Patagonian Weasel (Lyncodon patagonicus) and Lowland Gerbil Mouse (Eligmodontia typus).
There are also declining species such as the Pampas Cat (Leopardus colocolo), Patagonian Mara (Dolichotis patagonum) and Pichi (Zaedyus pichiy). The Magellanic Tuco-tuco (Ctenomys magellanicus), classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List, has a very limited range in Patagonia and is dependent on the preservation of steppe habitat.
Threats after the fire
Much of the Patagonian Steppe has been rendered uninhabitable for the native wildlife because of overgrazing by livestock, and the persecution of predators such as the Geoffroy’s Cat (Leopardus geoffroyi) and Puma (Puma concolor).
As the fences around the reserve have been destroyed by the fire, the danger is that livestock will be able to enter the reserve and feed on the newly regenerating vegetation, preventing the ecosystem from recovering from the fire. Although the rangers have been on vigilant poacher patrols, the lack of fences also increases the threat of trespassers to the reserve, and damage to the perimeter roads from ash and sediment deposits is making vehicle patrols difficult.
WLT is raising funds to send to FPN to help with the urgent reconstruction of the reserve’s perimeter fences. Please donate to enable our partner to begin the restoration of this reserve with its unique habitat and wildlife.