The Wildlife Conservation Society and the Government of Chile’s Ministry of the Environment have agreed to work in cooperation on a range of conservation issues affecting the nation’s lands, seas and wetlands.
On Tuesday, April 10, WCS representatives and officials from the Ministry of the Environment signed a memorandum of understanding. The signing was attended by Chile’s Minister of the Environment Maria Ignacia Benitez; Dr. Bárbara Saavedra, WCS Chile Director and President of the Ecological Society of Chile; WCS President and CEO Dr. Steven Sanderson; and WCS Latin America Regional Program Director Dr. Julie Kunen.
In the MOU:
- The two parties will cooperate in the management of the protected areas on Tierra del Fuego, including Karukinka and the RAMSAR site — Bahia Lomas.
- WCS will provide conservation science and technical expertise to support the management of conservation throughout the nation in wetlands and in terrestrial and marine areas.
- WCS will provide research and assist with strengthening the capacity of key stakeholders needed in maintaining biodiversity.
- WCS and the government will work together to extend conservation outreach and environmental education.
“We expect this MOU will further efforts of WCS sharing its knowledge on conservation planning with the government,” said Dr. Saavedra. “With this public-private cooperation, WCS’s efforts will be more directly aligned with national priorities. We will bring our conservation scientific expertise to support the government of Chile. WCS is a global conservation organization and can bring the latest tools from around the world to Chile. At the same time the world can learn from Chile’s example.”
WCS has a strong conservation program in Chile, including owning and managing Karukinka – a 294,999-hectare (728,960 acres) protected area on the island of Tierra del Fuego.
Said Dr. Sanderson, “We are pleased to have signed this agreement with the Government of Chile, which is positioned to be a world leader in protecting biodiversity. Chile is blessed with some of the world’s most beautiful land and seascapes and this country’s leadership is taking important steps to protect these natural treasures.”
This week, WCS announced a new trekking trail in Karukinka, which was completed in December, running 34 kilometers (21.3 miles). It is the first trail in Karukinka that brings tourists to the park’s coastline, home to seabirds, penguins, and elephant seals. Currently, the area has 64 kilometers of trekking trails and 193 kilometers of biking trails as WCS explores options to make Karukinka more ecotourism-friendly.
In addition, Saavedra will be joined by Sanderson, Kunen and a host of media and business representatives on a Karukinka expedition April 12-18. The goal of the expedition is to introduce Karukinka to a group of Chilean and U.S. visitors who will experience first-hand Karukinka’s natural heritage and its possibilities for sustainable ecotourism.
Karukinka, which was donated to WCS in 2004 by the global investment bank Goldman, Sachs & Co., contains the world’s southernmost old-growth forest, globally significant peatlands, and spectacular wildlife including Andean condors, guanacos, elephant seals, dolphins, marine birds and the endangered culpeo fox. It is ideal for biking, fishing, trekking and kayaking.
Since the reserve’s creation, WCS has engaged with the Chilean government to establish Karukinka as one of the world’s most innovative protected areas. The Karukinka Advisory Council, consisting of senior Chilean business and academic professionals, share their expertise and priorities in guiding the management of the reserve.