Trail is latest collaboration between WCS and Government of Chile to attract ecotourism to Karukinka, a national treasure, largely untouched by the human footprint

WCS Expedition planned April 12-18 to attract ecotourism entrepreneurs

NEW YORK, NY April 5, 2012 – The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced the opening of a new trekking trail that will connect spectacular uplands to rugged coastal areas in Karukinka – a 294,999-hectare (728,960 acres) protected area, which WCS owns and manages on the island of Tierra del Fuego in Chile.

The trail, which will be completed in December, runs 34 kilometers (21.3 miles). It is the first trail in Karukinka that brings tourists to the park’s coastline, home to seabirds, penguins, and elephant seals. Currently, the area has 64 kilometers of trekking trails and 193 kilometers of biking trails as WCS explores options to make Karukinka more ecotourism-friendly.

“With the opening of this trail, WCS is materializing Chile’s interest to increase visitors based on nature, conservation and wildlife in the region of Magallanes, one of three national tourism targets,” said Dr. Bárbara Saavedra, WCS Chile Director and President of the Ecological Society of Chile. “WCS is working with the Karukinka Advisory Council, representatives of the scientific, academic and business sectors who are mainly Chileans, as we pursue recommendations and advice to guide Karukinka’s development.”

Saavedra will be joined by WCS President and CEO Dr. Steven Sanderson, WCS Latin America Regional Program Director Dr. Julie Kunen, and a host of media and business representatives on a Karukinka expedition April 12-18. The goal of the expedition is to explore opportunities for ecotourism entrepreneurs to develop business ventures that will support the conservation of Karukinka’s natural heritage.
“Karukinka offers the people of Chile and the world unparalleled opportunities to understand nature,” said Sanderson. “Few places on Earth allow humans to feel completely enveloped by wild nature. We are hopeful that Karukinka can become the next great ecotourism destination in Latin America.”

The expedition will include both land and sea exploration. On land, the group will trek in Karukinka’s Vicuña Area and visit the La Paciencia Valley to explore Andean mountains, La Paciencia trail, and Lago Deseado and Lago Despreciado, to explore valued peat bogs. Guided by the Chilean exploration leader Cristian Donoso, at sea on board the vessel Forrest, the explorers will visit Admiralty Sound, Jackson Bay, Parry Fjord, Albatross Island, La Paciencia and Puerto Arturo bays.

A public use plan for Karukinka, a private reserve, was developed and has been guiding WCS’s work in the last years. Today, Karukinka is a well-known destination for local people, especially from Tierra del Fuego, scientists and students from different Chilean universities, who benefit from and have safe access to the spectacular land and seascapes of the park. The medium term goal for the area is to complete the Karukinka circuit, 335 miles of trekking and biking trails.

Before Karukinka, there was no tourist destination in Tierra del Fuego-Chile. Today, this island is considered one of the six tourism targets to be developed by the Chilean Government; and within it, Karukinka is the main attraction for visitors. A rising industry is being established in the area. WCS is working with its neighbors in developing new green attractions in this remote and unique wild place and is exploring concessions for strengthening its tourism contribution to the area.

Karukinka, which was donated to WCS in 2004 by the global investment bank Goldman, Sachs & Co., contains the world’s southernmost old-growth forest, globally significant peatlands, and spectacular wildlife including Andean condors, guanacos, elephant seals, dolphins, marine birds and the endangered culpeo fox. It is ideal for biking, fishing, trekking and kayaking.

Since the park’s creation, WCS has engaged with the Chilean government to establish Karukinka as one of the world’s most innovative protected areas. The Karukinka Advisory Council, consisting of senior Chilean business and academic professionals, share their expertise and priorities in guiding the management of the reserve.

STEPHEN SAUTNER: U.S.1-718-220-3682; 

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.