In the town of Alto Río Senguer, southwest of the province of Chubut, the Shoonem Rehabilitation and Breeding Station of Huemules, a milestone for the conservation of this species of which it is estimated that only 350 to 500 individuals remain in Argentina and is considered Endangered by the IUCN. The project aims to work on the recovery, reproduction and reintroduction of the Patagonian deer (Hippocamelus bisulcus) in environments suitable for their development, and almost to the limit of extinction.


The initiative links  Temaikèn Foundation, which adds its experience in field work and animal management, with  Shoonem Foundation, which specializes in huemul research in the Senguer River Basin in Chubut. The work between NGOs was promoted by the Directorate of Flora and Wildlife of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Industry and Commerce of the province of Chubut. 


Fundación Temaikèn contributes its 20 years of experience in wildlife care. "This first joint campaign was fundamental to achieve the objectives set for the Center. We were able to manage and translocate the first animals to the center to form the first founding group within the center. The extraordinary work carried out in the mountains and forests required an extremely exhaustive coordination between the institutions in which we were able to contribute our experience in clinical veterinary management to carry out chemical containment in the field, transfer of specimens and sample taking. From now on, we will accompany the project with specialized personnel in the field and within the Center for monitoring, behavioral studies and follow-up of the specimens to gather fundamental information to continue working on the knowledge and conservation of the species", explains Guillermo Delfino, Conservation Specialist at Fundación Temaikèn.


The Station, which combines rehabilitation, breeding and reproduction activities, was built in two years with the contribution of another Swiss NGO: Fundación Erlenmeyer, and will house the huemules of the Fontana and La Plata lakes in a 100-hectare natural field with fences specially adapted for the containment of the species. At the same time, the characteristics of the center allow for management related to the composition and distribution of the group of individuals, and it also has a building that can be used for more delicate management, as well as the possibility of setting up a laboratory. "The Center is inspired by the experience of Huilo Huilo Foundation in Chile, which managed to raise and reinsert native deer in the Los Rios Region, where it had become extinct. In our case it adds applied research as  we seek to understand and solve some specific problems that we detected in the field work: infections in mouths, missing teeth, chronic sinusitis, fragility in minerals, and other problems related to the mountain habitat," said Werner Flueck, Scientific Director of Shoonem and CONICET researcher, and Miguel Escobar, President of Shoonem Foundation. Shoonem Foundation has been working since 2014 conducting huemul studies and has postulated novel approaches to the cause of extinction in its study area, especially the problems arising from the loss of wintering as a fundamental cause of the animal's critical decline. Today it has the facilities that will also make it possible to collect fundamental data that will enrich the postulates and clinical care of native ungulates.

The conservation of the species requires Conservation Centers to increase the number of healthy huemul specimens in order to reintroduce them in areas where they have become extinct. The translocation of animals during this winter season, one of the harshest in decades, also included the active and collaborative presence of the Kosken Foundation, which is starting its work in the same direction in the northern part of the Aysén Region, Chile, in the Río Cisnes sector, in the Lago Verde Commune. The geographic proximity strengthens the work on binational wild populations, which has already begun with the support of the National Forestry Corporation (CONAF) for the area of the Lake Las Torres National Reserve.


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