Marsh deer project 2005

Santiago D'Alessio

After long years of work, supported and accompanied by the BP Conservation Programme, we have obtained not only an invaluable amount of new information on the biology of the Marsh Deer (Blastocerus dichotomus) and the factors threatening its survival in the lower Paraná River Delta, but also a successful conservation model that can be applied to Argentinean reality. Today we have the possibility of crowning our efforts by reflecting them in concrete, high-impact actions with strong political support. We will assist and guide the implementation of the official conservation activities of the Delta del Paraná Biosphere Reserve (a fundamental mainstay for the conservation of the extremely fragile Marsh Deer populations in the area, as well as the distinct and scarcely studied environments that sustain them). To achieve this, we will respect the method that experience has shown to be the most effective in terms of obtaining tangible, lasting results: based on technical criteria strongly supported by scientific information, working in tandem and benefiting the sector of the local population most directly involved, and with the consent and support of the relevant public authorities. Likewise, being convinced that the impact of conservation measures can only be measured adequately through biological criteria, we will design a monitoring methodology to evaluate the dynamics of one of the best indicators of the lower Paraná Delta environment’s health: Marsh Deer populations. This tool, which will be designed so it can be used autonomously by the RBDP administrators, will allow us to go one step further in our tasks, and in terms of management, it will allow the planning, guiding and modelling of future conservation measures based on solid technical grounds. Through our previous work we have obtained important evidence indicating that floating marsh environments could be of fundamental importance to deer survival, since they provide shelter during extraordinary floods of local rivers. In these situations, the animals would appear to gather on the floating straw mats, escaping the waters and poachers. Therefore, deepening our knowledge of the origin and functioning of floating marshes emerges as a clear necessity to be approached in this project, as well as an evaluation of their operational value as witness sites for the above-mentioned monitoring. Last but not least, we will work towards making our acquired experience and successful working model liable to be used and duplicated by other groups within our country autonomously. In this way, we will seek to lay the foundations for a national conservation plan arrived at through consensus, to ensure the appropriation of the Marsh Deer issue by the Argentinean conservation community, thereby generating a new and wider workforce to guarantee the survival of the species and the long-term protection of its habitats.All these activities will be accompanied by a thorough awareness campaign, aimed at different audiences. On the one hand, we will try to bring the issue into the public light in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area through a massive media campaign. The results obtained in previous stages of our work demonstrate the clear need for this audience (consisting of more than 14 million people) to have access to basic information on the existence of Marsh Deer populations in the near vicinity of the urban center, if we are to generate enough interest in public opinion to strengthen the political decision to preserve it. On the other hand, educational activities in the local community most closely involved will continue. These tasks, begun in previous stages of the project, have proven to be extremely effective, not only as long-term conservation tools, but as a way to generate strong links with the island inhabitants.

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