He dedicated his life to saving Patagonia’s “ghosts”

The first time Miguel Escobar saw Humuel, he felt something truly special that to this day he still can’t put into precise words.He said there are some things that never leave Never feel endangered every time you get close to this mysterious animal unique to Patagonia. “There is energy transfer, it is a living entity, it is not afraid of you, it looks at you as an equal, and it can make eye contact; In these moments, you share the world with another being who delivers peace and transcendence.“, he said, adding: “It doesn’t seem wise to lose it“.

“Personally, I do it because it awakens a spiritual community and connection within me. This has never happened to me,” Miguel said.Courtesy: Miguel Escobar

He came to this conclusion after walking around the land of Patagonia, his place in the world.before arrival Upper Senger River Meet the Humurians and create an NGO with the species’ only recovery and reintroduction center, Miguel is developing an environmental awareness tied to a love of the land.. Miguel was born and raised in Diadema, Argentina, a small town adjacent to Commodore Rivadavia that was “invented” by Shell. Miguel’s father is Argentinian and his mother is Chilean. Miguel spent his childhood on his grandfather Lucio’s fields, which had a traditional oil well.

There, it underwent a transition from traditional production to a secondary recycling system, which caused significant damage to the environment. The chaos was complete. “All the places where I spent my childhood were destroyed by machines. Whenever a well was drilled, the oil pool was set aside and the birds began to die at an alarming rate. “This is a scandal.”

After getting into trouble, he decided to move to the town of Sarmiento, on the shores of Colhué Huapi and Musters lakes in Chubut province, where he worked as a teacher for 15 years. Until 2010, fate knocked on his door. “I stumbled upon this story“, concludes. At that time, Miguel was working at the National University of Patagonia and had a degree in tourism. The Municipality of Artorio Sengul hired him as a photographer to produce a document that would be used Making a brochure of Patagonian landscapes.“There I found out that the mayor wanted to establish a protected area in the Fontana Lake area to protect Humul.“, remember.

“We can’t lose this: It’s as Patagonian as we are,” Miguel said.

Although he is Patagonian, he has never had much connection to the issue of this threatened species. “Destiny brought me Fontana and La Plata lakes and helped me create this park in 2013 whose name “Shonem” means “huemul” in the Onikank language“, explained. “According to the researchers, there are a large number of Huemules in this area,” he warned.

Miguel started walking around the area so he could observe the animals. “We’ve gone a lot but it doesn’t make any sense… I can’t see it: it’s a very difficult number” he said with a smile.

In the meantime, I’m slowly learning the full history of this animal known as the “Ghost of Patagonia.” “Humul has always been a mystery“, concludes. “It is one of two species of deer native to Patagonia, the other being the Pudu; it inhabits the transition zone between forest and steppe. The first explorers of this unknown land discovered it there”, he revealed.

Humul specimens on the shores of Lake Fontana, where they are usually seen during the winter.Courtesy: Miguel Escobar

The Wemurs did not begin to have problems with contemporary conquests and the advent of ranching, but they were already hunted by the nomads, twelches, and canoeists who inhabited the area. They made clothes from animal skins.

“Unlike other deer that escape in the presence of humans, Humul’s lifestyle is a little closer to tame,” Miguel explained. “Humul remained calm and he didn’t see the man as a threat. Can zoom in to a range of four to five meters. This attitude makes it more than just another animal,” he adds with fascination.

While touring Torres del Paine with other researchers, he was finally able to get close to a specimen. “I’m lucky enough to share a few hours“, account. From this point on, his life took a turn. He could no longer ignore what he called the “Wemuir problem”: “People feel a different kind of spirituality and you have to commit to it“.

Miguel explores the Patagonian forest.

This sense of a universe that cannot be postponed is realized in the creation of a foundation they call Shoonem, whose main goal is to answer a fundamental question: Why did Huemul die? “We discover two key characters in this story, Werner Flueck (Swiss researcher) and Jo-Anne Smith (American researcher), who studied the Wemuel world. ” Before then, he says, it was a sea of ​​myths: dog attacks, illegal hunting, competition from red deer. There is no convincing, nor has it been proven.

The investigation was interrupted due to authorization from the Chubut Provincial Wildlife Management Service. radio collar in some specimens. This is a groundbreaking decision in the country. “The first thing we discovered was that young animals have no teethmainly browsers, they use browsers to uproot plants,” Miguel said.

Two humurans with radio collars, a technology that allowed them to draw some conclusions about the behavior of this endangered animal.Courtesy: Miguel Escobar

Then they noticed a series of problems in the mouth and systemic osteomyelitis. The chin is the most noticeable place to have infections and canals.

One specimen, called Toothless, they tracked for two years gave them a glimpse of a possible answer to their original question. “After he died, we studied him and learned that he had lived a life filled with pain and severe infections, leading to sinusitis, which affected his sense of smell, which is a key sense for survival.”

over time, found that more than 50% of the animals they reviewed had significant dental problems. “So we said: This is a pattern, a trick to explain the extinction.” The investigation noted that the mountainous environment was fragile and lacked nutrients necessary for Humule’s health. Deficiencies in minerals such as selenium, iodine, magnesium and copper affect their bone fixation and ability to reproduce, posing a real threat to their survival.

“This is one of the big debates behind the Waymoor issue,” Miguel warned. The Shoonem Foundation hypothesizes that, based on these metrics, they “In the case of animal shelter in the forest”. Thus moved the shelf. For the first time, someone claimed that the humur was not essentially a “forest animal.”

Miguel is a photographer who loves his land, Patagonia.

In fact, as part of his research for the book “EL HUEMUL-SHOONEM, MOVED/REMOVED WOOD”, which he co-authored with Flueck and Smith, Miguel stumbled across the work of German geographer Hans Steffen in the area, which, in 1902, He arrives in the country to investigate against the backdrop of a border conflict between Argentina and Chile. “Stephen gives a description of the basin, where he talks about Vemulus, where he saw them, where he found their footprints… Where did you find them? In the transition zone between grassland and forest.this is a great find“Miguel said.

We concluded that what he lost was winter and summer., and was trapped in his summer. You can’t go down there because there’s ranching and hunting and dogs. It stays there and its offspring are born in the forest and lose their memory of migration, just like guanacos or even domestic cattle,” he details. Although this idea was discussed, it was not accepted by all academic circles, as not all academics accepted it. For Miguel”The best thing is to debate this, so we’ll keep our eyes on Huemul.“.

With this diagnosis, they pursued another advanced idea and asked Fauna to authorize a study. Incarceration and semi-incarceration centers. The idea was to create a wide space in the territory to try to increase the population of Hugh Mullers, since the situation was really critical: Supposedly, 500 remain in Argentina; in Chile, 1,500.

Shoonem and Termeiken Foundation Together, they decided to replicate the idea of ​​an NGO in Chile that had succeeded in significantly increasing the number of vemulus in areas where they were extinct.

The Shoonem Center is the first of its kind in Argentina.Courtesy: Miguel Escobar

Thanks to a donation from the Erlenmeyer Foundation in Switzerland, they began building a fence on 108 hectares of land donated by a private ranch. They then continued building the center, which will eventually launch in 2021 and feature lab sheds, park ranger accommodation, and used a wire to prevent mountain lions from attacking Huemules. “We bring in some specimens that are sick and others that won’t start the reproductive cycle,” he said. “Today we have five animals, two males and three females, and we already have our first animal (Shehuen, which means “light source” in Thuelche), the first semi-captive animal.“, he added.

Why is Humul worth saving? “It’s an umbrella species, species on which other species in forest and grassland areas depend, As a seed disperser, it softens the ground with its hooves,” he concluded. “Personally, I do it because of the awakening within me, A spiritual community, a connection. This has never happened to me. How could we be so stupid… We can’t lose this: it’s as Patagonian as we are,” said Miguel, who until recently was president of the Shoonem Foundation and is now operations manager.

The Shoonem Center is co-managed with the Temaikén Foundation.Courtesy: Miguel Escobar

His life was entirely dedicated to saving the huemul. Now, Miguel is focused on protecting the canyon that connects La Plata to the Aysen region and Lake Cisne, working with the Chilean Kosco Foundation. “Land is being purchased to operate other breeding centres, Bring the huemul back to their original position and restore the balance they once had”, he advanced.

“I’m a fifth-generation Patagonian. Here you live in harmony with nature. When you begin to suffer such intimate losses, Expect you to resist. This is a need for self-survival, but also for our children, who will have their own struggles.We must be passionate about close topics Collaboration help Because everything is going to go bad. The weather was released. we do something or stop yes. We’re doing something here,” he concluded.

At Shoonem Reserve, we surveyed an area believed to be home to approximately 60 Huemul.

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