El Piñalito Provincial Park
This conservation effort began in 1990 by the Cat Survival Trust, a Britain-based wildlife advocacy group headed by Terry Moore. The protected area is lush, wet, subtropical forest located in Misiones Province, Argentina. The project initially faced a series of problems typical for a small nongovernmental organization working in a remote area of an unfamiliar country. But by 1992, with the help of the Conservation Land Trust, the property had been purchased and a ranger employed. In 1997, Pinalito was designated a provincial park and subsequently was incorporated into the “Green Corridor,” a government-sanctioned habitat zone promoting conservation and sustainable development that cuts across the province from north to south.
The park is triangular in shape and extends to the Pepiri Guazu stream on the border with Brazil. To the north Pinalito borders land belonging to a logging company that has torn apart the native forest. To the south it borders another timber company, which has better managed its forest, maintaining habitat continuity through the biological corridor to the Yaboti Biosphere Reserve, a protected area of roughly 584,000 acres (236,000 hectares).
Pinalito is full of wildlife, with five species of feline (jaguarundi, ocelot, margay, oncilla, and puma)—the reason this tract of forest attracted the interest of the Cat Survival Trust. Pinalito is also a refuge for endangered species such as the red howler monkey, which is nearly extinct in Argentina, and the vinaceous Amazon, a colorful parrot whose existence is now threatened by habitat loss. Tree ferns are among the park’s noteworthy plants, as are various unusual orchids and bromeliads, and Parana pine trees, which formerly covered areas of the Misiones high plains and are greatly diminished throughout their native range. In recent times, due to hunting and habitat fragmentation, the jaguar has disappeared from the area, but with a bit of time and good conservation policies, this large carnivore might one day resume its crucial role in the ecosystem. Pinalito represents the only high-altitude conservation area in the entire Misiones Province, thus serving a key role in ecosystem protection.
Pinalito’s successful preservation is due largely to the tireless commitment of conservationist and neighbor Daphne Colcombet, and to Abel Gerber, the lone ranger with very special talents, who for a small salary manages to keep the park well protected. Both Daphne and Abel do everything they can to welcome visitors, host researchers, prevent timber theft, and ensure the park’s borders are respected. After unending battles, they have become the best guardians of the forest and its diverse wildlife.