What’s the story?
A jaguar mother and her two cubs have been returned to Argentina’s Iberá wetlands, as part of a rewilding programme to reintroduce the species to areas where it had been driven to local extinction. The largest predator in South America – the jaguar – was last observed in the Iberá wetlands 70 years ago.
The mother, named Mariua by researchers, was rescued as an orphan cub in Brazill, where she was born wild. She bred her two cubs, Karai and Porã, in captivity. Together with her cubs, Mariua will be the first of nine jaguars that will be released to repopulate the 700,000 hectare wetlands, which offer an abundance of prey for the cats.
Why is this positive news for the planet?
Jaguars are a “keystone species”. That means their presence is vital for the continuation of the local ecosystem, because they control levels of prey that would otherwise overgraze the habitats, which in turn would reduce the biodiversity of the area.
The jaguar population of this local area was reduced at the hands of humans – through hunting and deforestation – so it is right that humans take on the responsibility to restore the balance.
The jaguar is also a symbol of strength for the Guarani people of northeastern Argentina, and an essential element of the region’s identity.
Kristine Tompkins, president of Tompkins Conservation and Patron of Protected Areas for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said:
“We congratulate the government of Argentina, Argentina’s National Parks and the Province of Corrientes for their commitment to rewilding this iconic species. As we start the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030, it’s time to recognise the central role that rewilding can play in restoring climate stability and planetary health.”