Saving endangered Darwin’s rhea in Patagonia

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Tompkins Conservation (May 12, 2020, COCHRANE, CHILE) – A new flock of Darwin’s rhea is now roaming the steppe of Patagonia National Park, after a successful upbringing in an onsite reintroduction center dedicated to this threatened species. The fourth release of Darwin’s rheas within the park took place with essential staff exercising the sanitary precautions recommended during the COVID-19 outbreak. A small act of hope during a time of confinement for most of the planet, it is part of an ambitious rewilding program that seeks to restore complete and healthy ecosystems by strengthening vulnerable populations of native fauna.

Luis Sepulveda and Patagonia

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By Peter Hartmann
It was the return to democracy, in the early 1990s, and there was a joyful, hopeful breeze in the air. We were with Sole Acevedo, Pato Rossi and Magdalena Rosas at the OGANA building for the 1st Ecological Artistic Meeting of Coyhaique. It was a summer day, beautiful, and among the crowd was someone unknown, an outsider. Smiling, he presented himself. It was the writer Luis Sepúlveda, a member of Greenpeace, who had returned to Patagonia to collect information and impressions for his book Patagonia Express. It must have also been his reunion with Chile after having had several years of exile in South America, Nicaragua, Germany and Spain.

Chilean writer Luis Sepulveda dies of coronavirus

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 Photo of Luis Sepulveda in Patagonia, from the cover of the book Últimas noticias del surPhoto of Luis Sepulveda in Patagonia, from the cover of the book Últimas noticias del sur

Luis Sepulveda, the Chilean writer and author of more than 30 books – among them classics such as The Old Man Who Reads Love Stories and Patagonia Express – passed away today after doing battle with the coronavirus for seven weeks at a hospital in Spain.

The outdoors call: should we answer?

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 Pichilemu, Chile. Photo: Mitchell MilbauerPichilemu, Chile. Photo: Mitchell Milbauer

Some thoughts on how outdoor lovers can survive the coronavirus crisis.
By Mitchell Milbauer
Everyone wants to get outside. We’re eager to get on with our lives, or shake off boredom and just do something. For many of us, the sun keeps shining and telling us to grab the climbing gear, or maybe your haunted by a fresh snow and an urge to grab the skis. Should we follow our adventure instincts, or stay indoors?
Think first. After all, we’re in the middle of a dangerous pandemic. Covid-19 spreads through respiratory droplets, and according to the latest research you may even get it by just talking or breathing close by someone that is infected with the virus. The recommended social distance you ought to have between you and someone else? Two meters (6 feet), or about one and a half arm’s length. This virus is also spreading like wildfire in part because not all people are symptomatic; experts say that 25 percent of those struck by this deadly virus have the disease without even knowing it.
Yet, in the United States, in the state of Colorado, everywhere from the Front Range to the San Juan Mountains an influx of backcountry skiers has increased tenfold. The same has been reported in the eastern United States: at Mt. Washington in New Hampshire the famed backcountry ski area Tuckerman Ravine, which is on the list of 50 Classic Ski Descents of North America, is seeing a record number of visitors.
Let’s hope they are taking the necessary precautions.
Berthoud Pass, Colorado. Photo: Mitchell MilbauerBerthoud Pass, Colorado. Photo: Mitchell Milbauer
It’s a tough task to ask those who love nature and outdoor sports to put on hold their projects, vacations and goals in exchange for the couch. But if and when you do go outside keep focused on the bigger issue at stake and don’t add to the problem for you or the rest of us. Stay local. Stay within your own community and don’t travel too far from home. Ski those low angle trees 20 minutes down the road. Do some low stress bouldering problems in that weird area nobody really goes to, or take a walk to that pretty part of town that is less convenient. Recreate in places where there are less people congregating.
After leaving Chile a few weeks ago, I considered going ski touring in Berthoud Pass in Colorado. But I ultimately decided that the risk was too high. The chance of encountering too many other individuals on the trails, or risking an injury and having to call S.A.R and use up the time of already scarce medical personnel persuaded me otherwise. Right now, assessing risk-reward is more important than ever. One’s actions can affect so many people and I believe spring skiing, as fun as it is, can wait.
An ideal spot to self-isolate in Hokitika, New Zealand. Photo: Mitchell MilbauerAn ideal spot to self-isolate in Hokitika, New Zealand. Photo: Mitchell Milbauer
I have opted to bring the outdoors to the indoors.
Why not use this time for planning your next expedition into Patagonia? Or the Falkland Islands? A surf trip to Costa Rica? Get on it! You have so much time to plan every little detail and think about all the amazing trips ahead. Working out is another way to keep sane. The internet is a powerful tool and has a multitude of sport-specific workouts. Whether training for climbing, surfing, trekking – or just trying to stay in or get physically fit – there’s endless options. Another good indoor alternative is to reorganize and fix your outdoor equipment. I know for me half my gear is ripped, broken and scattered all over the place. Now is a better time than ever to fix your old mountain bike, or maybe that surfboard with the huge ding on the tail, and stash them in a nice accessible spot.
In Chile, the United States and so many other countries at the moment, national parks are closed. But outdoor options are still available. Choose wisely, practice social distancing, and find places where you can be away from others. Most of all, stay at home as much as possible. 

Online: Puelo Reserva de Agua book

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The conservation group Puelo Patagonia has just released the PDF version of their photo book “Puelo: Reserva de Agua” online for free.
“Because the most important thing is that all of us stay at home but don’t lose contact with nature, we want to give to everyone the book Puelo Reserva de Agua in digital format, so that everyone can enjoy this trip along the Puelo River and know the reasons why it is so urgent to preserve one of the last rivers in the world that still flows free,” said the group.
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