From Cuba to the waters off of Argentina, WCS works to conserve the region's extraordinarily diverse and iconic wildlife, including penguins, whales, jaguars, monkeys, and Andean bears. Encompassing national parks, indigenous territories, productive fisheries, migratory corridors, and sustainable development reserves, our work is not only vital to Latin America's biodiversity but to its people and economies as well.
In the Caribbean, the WCS Health Programs' staff provide an important health component to the Belize sea turtle surveys that have been conducted at Glover’s Reef since 2007. In Grand Cayman, where the blue iguana declined to less than 20 wild animals, the WCS Health Programs have helped with a captive breeding program that has released over a thousand iguanas in multiple locations across the island.
In Central and South America, health activities include work on the spectacular scarlet macaw, which has suffered local extinctions through habitat destruction and hunting for the pet trade. WCS veterinarians in Guatemala are conducting health monitoring of wild scarlet macaws, testing for diseases that threaten their conservation such as Pacheco's disease, psittacine beak and feather disease, polyomavirus, herpes virus, and chlamydia.
Health studies in the region have also looked at disease impacts on jaguar and white-lipped peccary. WCS Health Programs' staff are working on impacts from mange on the vicuna, an economically important wild camelid from the high altiplano region of the Peruvian Andes, where WCS staff are also studying the effects of chytrid fungus and climate change on high-elevation frogs. In Chile, WCS is studying the impact of invasive mink on black-browed albatross survival and devastation caused by invasive beavers to Patagonian ecosystems.
At the southern end of South America, Southern right whale populations off the coast of Argentina have suffered the largest mortality event ever recorded for a baleen whale anywhere in the world. The WCS Health Programs are involved in the urgent work to understand the cause of increased mortality in this species.
Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher, WCS