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This week: Valdivia to host national conference on birdwatching in southern Chile

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Photo: Jorge Cardenas/FlickrPhoto: Jorge Cardenas/Flickr
 
 
By Zoe Baillargeon
 
Chile’s diverse landscapes and extensive system of national parks and protected areas are increasingly making it a world-class haven for viewing a wide range of intriguing and beautiful bird species, especially migratory birds. The Atacama desert, the Los Lagos region, and the far south of Patagonia are often cited as top places for birdwatching, but tourism industry professionals and ornithologists are eager to promote the many untapped opportunities for birding tourism in the Los Rios region and elsewhere in southern Chile at this week’s 2nd National Bird Watching in Southern Chilean Ecosystems Conference.
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Torres del Paine: Restoring the Base Torres trail

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 Torres del Paine National Park. Photo: Torres del Paine Legacy FundTorres del Paine National Park. Photo: Torres del Paine Legacy Fund

 
By Jenny Tolep
 
One of Chile’s most prized possessions, Torres del Paine National Park is a hotspot for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts that currently draws more than 260,000 tourists annually. But sadly, this beloved park is threatened to be loved to death. Increasing numbers of visitors, plus the annual pounding the terrain receives from strong winds and rain, have the park’s trails quickly deteriorating. Without immediate action, the erosion will become too severe and the trails will be permanently damaged. 
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Torres del Paine receives special funding for improvements

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Torres del Paine Legacy Fund volunteers hard at work on a new trail. Photo: Eric LeeTorres del Paine Legacy Fund volunteers hard at work on a new trail. Photo: Eric Lee
 
 
By Zoe Baillargeon
 
Trekkers on the Macizo Paine Circuit will soon be seeing some new upgrades to the trail.
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New rules on visits to Cochamo Valley

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Puelo Patagonia Due to high demand, anyone who wants to visit the Cochamó Valley during the high season will have to make reservations in advance using the website www.reservasvallecochamo.org. This same measure applies in other places with high tourist demand like Torres del Paine, and has been in force in Cochamó since January with the aim of improving tourist experiences while protecting the area’s natural resources.
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The importance of preserving natural areas

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Cerro Castillo National Park. Photo: Jimmy Chin/Conservacion PatagonicaCerro Castillo National Park. Photo: Jimmy Chin/Conservacion Patagonica
 
 
By Andrés Gillmore
Translation by Jeannette Westwood

In recent years, it has become better understood that preserving rural areas is critical to planning sustainable development in Chile’s regions. With Chilean society experiencing an entirely new level of awareness, we must urgently determine which regional areas anticipate such planning and protect them from potential interventions that would undermine the communities dependent on these areas for their futures.
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Futurismo Aysén: International sustainable tourism festival in Cerro Castillo

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By Rosario Góngora
Translation by Amy Schrader
 
Three days of activities to promote sustainable tourism in the Aysén Patagonia region.
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Seventh South America Bird Fair in Puerto Varas next month

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Blue-and-yellow macaw. Photo: Deni WilliamsBlue-and-yellow macaw. Photo: Deni Williams
 
 
By Cristobal Perez
 
The seventh edition of the South America Bird Fair will be held for the first time in Chile next month, where birdwatchers and bird enthusiasts will come together for lectures, symposia, workshops, field trips and other activities about birds and their ecosystems.
 
Started in 2010, the South America Bird Fair began as a small event in San Martín de los Andes, thanks to the initiative of Argentine biologist Horacio Mataraso. He saw the need to organize an event that would bring together birdwatchers of South America, taking as an example the British Bird Fair and other bird fairs held in the United States, Australia and Europe. The fair was held annually in Argentina until 2013, in 2015 moved to Paraty, Brazil, and last year was held in Buenos Aires.
 
This year, the fair will be at Hotel Cabaña del Lago in Puerto Varas from October 26-29. Its organizers say that a main objective is to position South America - and this year Chile in particular - as one of the world’s top birdwatching destinations. Indeed, South American birds have “a diversity of shapes, habits and colors that are unique on the planet,” says Chilean ornithologist Álvaro Jaramillo in the article "Best Birdwatching Places in South America” in the current issue of Patagon Journal.
 
 
Chucao. Photo: Nicolás BinderChucao. Photo: Nicolás Binder
 
 
Raffaele Di Biase, founder of Birds Chile, the local organizer of the event, says that "it is an opportunity to show people and governmental organizations that it is an important niche, with enormous potential, that it is one of the most sustainable forms of tourism, and that it is fast growing in recent years.”  He adds that the fair aims to be a contribution to conservation. "As the natural heritage becomes a tourist attraction,” he said, “it becomes economically more profitable to conserve ecosystems rather than degrade or exploit them.”
 
The event is organized with support from the regional government, which Di Biase says is increasingly backing birdwatching activities. “Ten years ago, there was little or no interest whatsoever in birdwatching. But over the past five years we have started to see birds as a main feature in the tourism promotion materials put out by the Chilean government.”
 
The program (see below) for this year’s fair has a wealth of lectures, video documentaries, workshops, and presentations from scientists as well as authors of some of the continent’s most important birdwatching guides. There is great interest in participating in the fair: all available stands sold out already weeks ago, and in addition to a strong South American presence, experts from England, Africa and the United States will participate.
 
 
Black woodpecker. Photo: Liam QuinnBlack woodpecker. Photo: Liam Quinn
 
 
This year the fair has made environmental education a main theme, thanks to Carolina Yáñez, a conference volunteer who has been visiting schools in the province of Llanquihue (where Puerto Varas is located) the past four months teaching them about birds and birdwatching.  The first day of the fair will be dedicated exclusively to students, who will be able to view environmental education exhibits.
 
At the fair you will also find stands featuring the latest birding equipment, birdwatching companies, bird books, art galleries and governmental entities and organizations dedicated to birds and nature. Birdwatchers will have tremendous oppportunites to deepen and complement their knowledge, and tour operators will be able to connect to the leading birdwatching companies on the continent. Swarovski Optik, one of the world’s leading makers of optical equipment for birdwatching and ecotourism, for the first time will sponsor the fair and is bringing all of its products.

Below, the program for the fair. For more info, visit www.birdfair.net.
 
Program for the Seventh South America Bird FairProgram for the Seventh South America Bird Fair
 
 
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