Pampas Deer

Our goal is to assure the long-term survival of the pampas deer in the Province of Corrientes, and to promote its return to the interior of Iberá by reintroducing the deer to areas where it was previously extirpated.

Current status of the project (updated June, 2017): A new population of pampas deer (the country's fifth) is now established in the 10,000 hectare San Alonso reserve, sited at the core of Iberá Nature Reserve. This population consists of around 90-100 individuals (although, due to the difficulty in identifying all animals, it is likely to be more), with the confirmed birth in the wild of at least 67 fawns. In 2015 a new population was began in the Rincon del Socorro Reserve, adjacent to the town of Carlos Pellegrini. This incipient population has now 13 individuals, including three fawns born in the wild. Additionally, the project has a 535 hectare reserve aimed to the preservation of this deer within its current distribution range in the marshes of Aguapey, neighboring the Iberá Natural Reserve. In dry years this reserve typically holds between 20 and 50 deer coming in and out of nearby cattle ranches.

The pampas deer in Corrientes:
a threatened natural monument

Prior to the 20th century, the pampas deer (Ozotoceros bezoarticus) was one of the most abundant and characteristic mammals of northern and central Argentina. Oral tradition from the 18th century suggests that the deer once roamed and grazed by the thousands over the extensive Argentine pampas. The rapid transformation of the pampas into cattle ranches and agricultural farms at the end of the 19th century left the “king of the pampas” practically without a place to live.

Currently, it is estimated that about 2,000 pampas deer remain in Argentina. This total population is geographically split into 5 isolated populations located in the provinces of Buenos Aires, San Luis, Corrientes and Santa Fe. The population of the subspecies O.b. leucogaster found in Corrientes is the largest of the country. This subspecies has very few individuals in Santa Fe, and is not present in the other two provinces. In recognition of its importance, the province of Corrientes declared the deer as a Natural Monument in Corrientes, which affords not only the protection of the animal, but also the protection of its habitat.

Poster of the project

 

Male pampas deer

Studies of the pampas deer in the province of Corrientes demonstrate that they currently occupy a stretch of grasslands between the sand banks that border the Iberá Wetlands and the swamps of Aguapey. Unfortunately, the Forestry Industry has chosen this area as a key location for exotic pine tree plantations, which cause rapid degradation of the natural habitat of pampas deer. In other parts of the deer’s former range, the presence of dogs and large populations of cattle have frightened the deer away. Some areas also still permit limited hunting of the animal, despite its protected status.

If the destruction of the pampas deer’s habitat is allowed to continue unchecked as it has in recent history, we may witness the complete extirpation of the species in Corrientes sooner than one might think. This wouldn’t be the first time that something like this has occurred in the province. Towards the end of the last century, a population of pampas deer close to Concepción disappeared due to the establishment of new Pine and Eucalyptus plantations on their native habitat.

Map of the distribution of pampas deer in Corrientes which shows the rapid advance of pine plantations
and where we have seen individuals of the species between 2006 and 2009

What are the objectives of our project?

Our project combines in-situ conservation of the established populations of pampas deer in the zone of Aguapey, as well as restoration of the deer to its original distribution within the Iberá Reserve. In the first case, the object is to secure the permanence of a stable population of deer within its current range. The objective of the second case is to establish a population of pampas deer within the Iberá Provincial Reserve that will increase the distribution of the species in the Corrientes Province, and help to secure its long term survival in Argentina.

How do we work?

The objectives, actions, methodologies, and time frames related to the restoration of this species in Corrientes are detailed in "Project of Conservation, Rescue, and Restoration of the Pampas Deer in the Province of Corrientes" (open document), developed by the CLT and Argentina Flora and Fauna in collaboration with and authorized by the Department of Natural Resources of Corrientes.

Since 2006 we have been taking periodic censuses to estimate the distribution and abundance of the species in the region of Aguapey. Simultaneously, we have developed promotional activities, arranged meetings with cattle ranch owners and personnel, designed and distributed pamphlets, poster, almanacs, and educational DVDS, and have even put on a kid-friendly puppet show.

Taking a census of deer in the area

 

Veterinarians working with a deer

With the help of Argentina Flora and Fauna, we established a 535-hectare reserve dedicated to the conservation and proliferation of the pampas deer. The reserve has been named Guasutí Ñu, or Land of Deer in the native language of Guaraní. This is the first protected area dedicated solely to the conservation of pampas deer in the region of Aguapey.

In 2009 a team of veterinarians and biologists from Argentina and Brazil completed the first capture and translocation of pampas deer in Corrientes. This served to restore a population of the species in the San Alonso reserve, a 10,000-hectare stretch of high quality grasslands. San Alonso, property of the Conservation Land Trust, is located inside the Iberá Natural Reserve. The population of deer here in San Alonso is the fifth known population of the species in the country. With the addition of San Alonso to the country’s protected lands, the area dedicated to strict conservation in Argentina has quadrupled.