Jaime Ganga, from Cochrane, Chile, has worked with Conservacion Patagonica for years in habitat restoration and supporting the wildlife recovery program. Here’s a short interview with him about his work in the future Patagonia National Park!
Q. When did you first begin to work with Conservacion Patagonica?
A. I started working for Conservacion Patagonica in October of 2010; after a few months, I joined the Wildlife team.
Q. What does your day-to-day work consist of as a member of the wildlife team?
A. Some days, I work on habitat restoration, in areas that were heavily damaged by overgrazing when the park was an estancia, or sheep ranch. Many invasive plant species started to take over, due to the weakened native plant species. These invasives include wild rose, thistle, poison hemlock, pine, and others. Other days, we support the park guards and wildlife trackers, like Daniel Velasquez and Arcilio Sepulveda: bringing supplies to their puestos, taking them to the park headquarters, etc. Some days we help out with taking notes or completing studies, as well. When there are major projects such as repairing puestos or building the cage for the condors that will be released, we work on that. We also work with the livestock that remains on the estancia, for our team’s consumption.
Q. Tell us about the construction of the condor cage.
A. The goal was to build a large, comfortable cage for the three condors that will be released in mid-January. First, we moved a
ll the materials by tractor to the sector of the park known as “18 Chico,” which had been selected as the best habitat for pre-release. We chose the spot for the cage in a place that wasn’t too flat so that the condors would have enough height and space to fly when they were freed.Then, we carried all of the materials (the wire, the posts, the wood planks, etc.) to the spot where the cage would be built. It took about 5 days to construct the cage between myself and Jorge Perez, another member of wildlife control.
We were happy with the result of the cage. We used and modified an old design as reference. Afterwards, we heard that it turned out better and more resistant than others before. The cage had to be strong and resistant enough so that the condors couldn’t leave, but it also had to be easy to disassemble. We’ll have half a day to do that right before they’re liberated.
Q. Has the wildlife program considered utilizing cages for other endangered or threatened species?
A. Yes, we have thought about it, but so far there have only been ideas. For example, some scientists propose captive breeding for the ñandus (lesser rhea) because there are very few of them in the park. This would mean constructing a similar cage to the condor cage, but bigger and lower to the ground. We would be able to liberate them and they’d be able to reproduce and grow in numbers. As it stands there are very few in the park, about 20 in total.
Q. Why is habitat restoration important for the future Patagonia National Park?
A. In this landscape, restoration is critical for the ecology and beauty of the place. If we don’t do this work, visitors will come and they’ll know that the ground is damaged. When we work to restore an area, the aim is make it look natural, so that it doesn’t look like human hands have ever been there. For instance, we don’t want to plant trees in straight lines.
Q. What is your favorite part of the job?
A. I like the part of my job when we get to work with livestock. For example, when we help out with the sheep shearing I enjoy it because it has a lot of history; it’s a job people have been doing here for a long time. It’s always been important in the region in terms of wool, food, and Patagonian culture.