Visiting the Iguazu Falls National Park may seem like the obvious choice for seeing local wildlife in the region, but the town of Puerto Iguazu also boasts another wildlife wonder: the Güirá Oga rehabilitation centre.
Located 20-minutes by bus from the centre of town, Güirá Oga (meaning ‘House of Birds’ in Guarani) boasts a variety of rescued and rehabilitated animals. At the centre, you can attend one of the hourly tours with a bilingual guide who will show you round the site, explaining the animals’ backgrounds and the conservation work that Güirá Oga does.
Founded by Jorge Anfuso and Silvia Elsegood, the centre is situated on a 19-hectare protected landscape named ‘Andres Giai‘ after the renowned naturalist. The sanctuary’s forests itself boasts a variety of flora with 40 different tree species (some nearly 30 metres tall) and fauna. In fact, over 150 wild birds have been spotted on the site and a recent survey found over 50 different butterfly species. The biodiversity of the area is due mainly to its proximity with the Iguazu National Park. The sanctuary also houses a variety of wild animals from captive or rescued backgrounds.
The main objectives of the Güirá Oga sanctuary are:
- To contribute to the provincial state policies of the conservation of protected wildlife areas and biodiversity.
- To recover and reintroduce (whenever possible) animals that are seized or handed over to the centre.
- To establish captive breeding programs for a number of seriously endangered species.
- To make a site where the national and provincial environmental authorities can lodge rainforest species that have been seized, rescued or saved.
- To carry out research work in biology and behaviour of species, producing results that may contribute to their conservation.
- To develop activities, programmes and materials that raise public awareness about the need to preserve the forest and its biological diversity, within the scope of environmental education and dissemination.
- To provide visitors with ‘hands on’ experience in environmental education and extending these activities to local schools and communities.
Güirá Oga follows a protocol for dealing with the species they acquire:
The animals living at the sanctuary varies on a monthly basis as a result of rehabilitation and release efforts. Nevertheless, the centre is home to some permanent residents ranging from howler monkeys to river otters. Sadly, the majority of these animals have been taken in as a result of illegal pet trade and human-inflicted injury.
The centre is particularly famous for its bird life, including an incredible selection of Toucan species.
Güirá Oga even has its own falconry centre which is carefully designed to rehabilitate its members for eventual release.
So if you’re looking for a responsible way to see wildlife which not only benefits the animals but the environment as well, Güirá Oga is well worth the visit!