Changing Planet


By Steven E. Sanderson

Santiago, Chile, April 19, 2012

Travel to Chile. Upon arriving, head to southern Patagonia, near the tip of South America. Cross the Magellan Strait.

Arrive on the island of Tierra del Fuego, latitude 54 degrees south. Watch for the dusky dolphin and sea lions welcoming you from below and the albatross, kelp gulls, petrels and cormorants overhead. Travel the grasslands, heading south. Pass the southernmost Chilean flamingos in the world, living alongside king penguins, culpeo fox and guanaco.

Sea Lion - Rolando H. Santos

You know you have arrived when the grasslands turn into old-growth forest and the lower Andean range towers. One dirt road will lead you to its southern border on Admiralty Sound, a waterway to the end of human-occupied Earth, as fjords and glaciers bear witness both to ancient time and contemporary climate change.

It is distant and isolated. You are now exploring one of the greatest wild places left on Earth.

A single road cuts through Karukinka's grasslands and forest - Judith Hamilton

It is your last stop before Antarctica. It is where terrestrial life ends. Adventurists, attracted to the call of the South Pole, have passed by Karukinka, leaving it still a place to be explored for the first time.

In 2004, the Wildlife Conservation Society was given this land by Goldman, Sachs & Co., along with a commitment to conserve it. The reserve is a bit larger than Rhode Island, about 50 times the size of Manhattan. Traveling through, it becomes clear that no one person or entity can truly own this vast land and seascape that has been both bruised and cherished by humankind for 8,000 years. This place belongs to the Chilean people, who have inherited it from some of the earlest inhabitants of the Americas. As an organization, we are stewards charged with its protection, in partnership with government and Chileans from all sectors of civil society. It is simply our turn to ensure the timeless legacy of place.

Admiralty Sound - Alejandro Vila

These past two weeks, I traveled to Karukinka with a team of Chilean business representatives to see how together we can preserve this landscape and make it sustainable for generations to come. We climbed Cerro Pietro Grande in sunshine, rain, snow and sleet, witnessing at the windblown top the kaleidoscope of nature’s fall colors across the grasslands, peat bogs and mountains. We were stuck on the snowy southern Andean Range, as our vehicle failed to overcome 8 inches of new snow. Before we were retrieved off the mountain by four-wheel drive trucks, we stood in wonder beneath condors gliding easily over the pass that had defeated us. Finally, we traversed Admiralty Sound amidst sea lions, leopard seals, penguins and albatross.

Hiking after truck gets stuck in the snow - Judith Hamilton

Together, our group was alone in our journey. Only a few dozen travelers come here each year. More should come, prepared and hardy, to explore forest and bogs that store hundreds of millions of tons of carbon; to see first-hand the damage caused by invasive beavers that affect as much as 18 million acres of forest; but also to marvel at Karukinka’s stunning wildlife including the largest population of protected guanacos in Chile and the dramatic Magellanic woodpecker, relative of the Ivory-bill; and more.

Guanaco in old-growth forest damaged by beavers - Rolando H. Santos

All the world has a collective responsibility to preserve Karukinka and we welcome new and returning witnesses who will admire this unique place and help us create a culture of protection for Karukinka and the communities around it.

Sunrise over Karukinka - Rolando H. Santos

Dr. Steven E. Sanderson is President and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.
  • […] Tuesday 15 de May de 2012 | Daily life, Enviroment var addthis_config = { "data_track_clickback": true }; Tweet “Travel to Chile. Upon arriving, head to southern Patagonia, near the tip of South America. Cross the Magellan Strait,” writes Dr. Steven E. Sanderson, President and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), in the National Geographic magazine. The good doctor is directing readers to the Karukinka nature reserve, in the southern wilds of Patagonia. “It is distant and isolated,” writes Sanderson. “You are now exploring one of the greatest wild places left on Earth.” Located on the island of Tierra del Fuego, jutting out of the bottom of the South American continent, the reserve is a hiker’s paradise, and an important biological sanctuary. Marine life abounds there – from dolphins and sea lions to albatross and king penguins, while on land, the southernmost population of flamingos lives alongside culpeo fox, Magellanic woodpecker and guanaco. But Karukinka is something else; more than just another of Chilean Patagonia’s spectacular natural landscapes, it is a testament to an entirely different vision of conservation. In 2004, the 680,000 acres (272,000ha) of land that make up the reserve were donated by U.S. financial company Goldman Sachs to the WCS. The arrangement was designed to “ensure conservation in the region in perpetuity,” and pioneer “a new kind of partnership for conservation of these precious wild lands, which reflect the importance of Chile for global conservation,” said Sanderson at the time. Based on the promotion of public-private cooperation, local-global interaction, and national and international participation, the organization is trying to develop new mechanisms of economic sustainability. “WCS expects to work with Goldman Sachs to assure not only Karukinka’s ecological but also financial sustainability,” says the organization on its official website. “WCS has created an Advisory Board that brings together representatives of the scientific and business sectors, mainly Chileans, that will provide recommendations and advice favoring Karukinka’s development.” To find out more, visit the Karukinka website. And to read Sanderson’s description of the reserve, click here. […]

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