A conservation, ecotourism and rewilding project in north-east Argentina is protecting endangered species and giving communities a chance to shape their own futures
Juan cut the engine and we drifted across Laguna Fernández, its mirror-flat surface reflecting cotton-wool clouds, the silence broken only by the raucous cry of a crested screamer. Soon, a leathery snout emerged from a tangle of grasses, a full set of jagged teeth followed by an unblinking eye. It was the first of many basking yacaré caiman, the crocodilian reptile once hunted for its skin but now protected. For an instant, I caught the eye of a surprised marsh deer as it tiptoed across a floating island to drink from the lake, but before I could grab my camera it was gone.
The Iberá estuaries – iberà means shining waters in the indigenous Guaraní language – form one of the world’s largest freshwater wetlands, covering around 13,000 sq km in the Corrientes province of north-east Argentina. This wilderness, where floodplains, Chaco grassland and subtropical forest converge, is home to more than 4,000 species of flora and fauna, including more than 360 species of birds. Two decades ago it was under threat; now, it’s one of South America’s pioneering conservation and ecotourism projects.