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Endangered huemul deer make comeback in Huilo Huilo

A victory was scored last week for wildlife conservation in Patagonia!

The Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve in the Lake District has finally, after a thirty year absence, welcomed home a dearly departed friend - the huemul deer!

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The huemul or South Andean deer, a small species of deer which appears on the Chilean national coat of arms, disappeared from the region in the 1980s, as human activities drove the huemul into endangered species territory.

But thanks to an 11-year effort mounted by conservation societies and organizations such as the Centro de Conservación del Huemul del Sur, the Department of Agriculture and Livestock, and the Department of Wildlife Foundation, five deers that were bred in a quarantined area of the park were finally released into the wild again on Saturday, November 26.

The deers - decked out in tracking collars so their movements and actions can be monitored as the repopulation effort takes off - were released of their own accord through a technique called “Soft Release,” where the deer were allowed to leave the enclosure on their own time, without being pressured or stressed. After the first two deer left the fenced area, joyous cheers, music, and dancing arose from an assembled crowd of onlookers, including authorities, representatives of the involved agencies, and locals overjoyed at the return of this iconic animal.

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At the moment, there are still twenty deer living in the quarantined area, but hopefully they too will soon be released into the overall reserve to enjoy the 100,000 hectares of forests, fields, lakes, and rivers.

So, welcome back to the Huilo Huilo, little huemuls. We all know that there’s no place like home!