Situated in Argentina’s Misiones Province, between Paraguay and Brazil, Yabotí Biosphere Reserve is part of the Atlantic forest biome, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots.

The sheer amount of Atlantic forest within its 236,613 hectares makes it of global ecological importance, providing habitat for unique plants and animals, such as jaguars, tapirs and harpy eagles, among other threatened species.

However, there has been a dramatic increase in wildlife poaching over the last year, including a rise in the number of heavily armed poachers. The Biosphere Reserve’s boundary runs along the national border with Brazil, meaning these poachers are coming from both within Argentina and from across the river from Brazil, increasing the threat intensity. Park guards have noted a sharp, dramatic increase in the level and sophistication of illegal activities, with more fire arms being confiscated, larger groups working together, increased use of motorized vehicle (versus via horse or foot), and interception of poachers with worryingly large quantities of bush meat.

Monitoring through the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme and inventories from the Proyecto Zorro Pitoco (Bush Dog Project) led by the Universidad Nacional de Misiones, which works in this region with the local government and park staff, have reported sharp declines in both carnivore (e.g. jaguar, puma, ocelot, tirica and bush dog) and prey species (e.g tapir, white-lipped peccary, collared peccary, and paca), and there is evidence of the mass slaughter of herd animals such as the peccary. Without swift intervention, the long-term survival of the Reserve’s rich biodiversity is in peril.

Provincial park guards and an elite anti-poaching force, formed by the Ministerio de Ecología y Recursos Naturales Renovables (MEyRNR), are committed to preventing illegal hunting in the reserve. However, economic instability in Argentina has resulted in limited resources being available for these anti-poaching teams, and additional support is urgently needed to tackle the increased threat.

RRF has therefore granted $29,168 to the Proyecto Zorro Pitoco initiative, through the Universidad Nacional de Misiones. These funds will be used to provide field supplies, such as vital communication equipment, protective clothing, and vehicle repairs, to permit an increase in patrol coverage and intensity. The aim is to create a deterrent effect through greater and more effective presence of anti-poaching teams in the Reserve.

The project staff will continue to support MEyRNR, to demonstrate the value of increased resources and ideally leverage additional support in the future. It is hoped therefore, that this concerted effort will not only reduce the immediate threat but will also establish a firmer foundation to manage the pressure from wildlife poaching in the long term.

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Atlantic forest reserve in peril