A contribution to the conservation of biodiversity and history
A contribution to the conservation of biodiversity and history.
M´Bopicuá Biopark is an initiative of Montes del Plata located near the city of Fray Bentos, in the Rio Negro department, by the Uruguay River. The area is an enclave full of history and with great environmental value. At a surface area of 150 has (370 acres), this Biopark comprises a native fauna breeding centre, a native flora trail and the ruins of the “Saladero M´Bopicuá” (the M´Bopicuá Meat Preservation Plant), a meat preservation plant dating back to the 1800s.
The main goals of this Biopark are the conservation of native fauna species (especially those in danger of extinction), environmental education and the repopulation of several natural areas managed by Montes del Plata with the species that have these areas as their natural habitat. Currently, over 600 specimens of around 60 different species live in the Biopark.
In 2011, the Biopark became a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) and was also declared as departmental interest by the Local Government of Rio Negro. In 2017, it became a part of the Painted Birds Corridor of the Ministry of Tourism.
The Biopark is regularly visited by educational institutions. The main aim of these visits is to raise awareness and educate in all issues surrounding biodiversity conservation.
A look at the Biopark
The Biopark is divided into three large areas comprised of a breeding station for native fauna, a path for the interpretation of native flora and a historical area of important cultural value known as "El Saladero de M´Bopicuá
The species living in the breeding centre were chosen based on their population status. Priority was given to those in danger of extinction and whose habitat has been identified as the kinds of natural environments to be found in the Montes del Plata property.
Since its establishment, reproduction and reintroduction of a variety of species of mammals, birds and reptiles have been accomplished. The reproduction of the Lesser Anteater (“tamanduá”) stands out as a great accomplishment on the part of the Biopark, the only place in Uruguay where several births of this species have been achieved.
Since 2010 there have been several reintroductions of Broad-snouted Caimans, Ring-tailed Coatis and, 100 years after their extinction, Collared Pecaries.See photos
Each species has an exclusive habitat taking into account their habits and comfortable temperature ranges. This special care, together with a proper diet and handling, leads to reproductive success.
The main species being bred are:
Azara’s Agouti, Dasyprocta azarae
Ring-tailed Coati, Nasua nasua
Hairy Tree Porcupine, Sphiggurus spinosus
Pampas Cat, Leopardus braccatus (*)
Geoffroy’s Cat, Oncifelis geoffroyi
River Otter, Lontra longicaudis
Crab-eating Racoon, Procyon cancrivorus
Margay, Leopardus wiedii (*)
Lesser Anteater, Tamandua tetradactyla (*)
Collared Pecary, Tayassu tajacu
Six-banded Armadillo, Euphractus sexcinctus
Cougar, Puma concolor (*)
Greater Naked-tailed Armadillo, Cabassous Tatouay
Pampas Deer, Ozotoceros bezoarticus (*)
Jaguar, Panthera onca
- Conservation-priority species in Uruguay, according to the National System of Protected Areas of the National Environmental Agency (DINAMA, Ministry of Housing, Land Planning and the Environment).
Birds are the largest group of species bred in the M´Bopicuá Biopark. A large lake accommodates many species of aquatic birds, among them swans, ducks, herons, cormorants and southern screamers. Some of these species use the lake to stop to rest and then go on with their migration flies. There are also exclusive aviaries, as well as others shared by various species.
There is a designated area for the Roseate Spoonbill, an aquatic species, with an especially-designed habitat with trees and a small lake, meant for reproductive purposes. The Greater Rhea species has an exclusive grasslands area for ease of movement.
The Broad-snouted Caiman (Caiman latirostris) is bred at the M´Bopicuá Biopark. This is a priority for conservation in Uruguay according to the National System of Protected Areas of the National Environmental Agency. Adults have access to an exclusive lake and there are two small pools for the young.
One of the reintroductions achieved was the release of this species in a conservation area located in forestal land belonging to Montes del Plata in the Paysandú department.
Native flora trail
Starting from the Lake of the Yacaré, the native flora trail skirts the Uruguay River and ends at the “Saladero M´Bopicuá” (the M´Bopicuá Meat Preservation Plant) after a half-hour walk. There, more than 40 different species of native trees and bushes can be found, clearly identified for educational purposes.
On the banks of the Uruguay River, the woods have the characteristic of a riverside wood. Running parallel to these, the inner woods present themselves as a park.See photos
The “Saladero M´Bopicuá”
The “Saladero M´Bopicuá” (the M´Bopicuá Meat Preservation Plant) is a highly valuable historical area including the ruins of the River Plate Pressure Meat Preserving Company Limited, a now defunct English company.
Construction of the meat preserving company building started in 1872 and ended in 1875. Activities were halted three years later. This was due to technical failures connected with an important shipping complex and the competition of yet a similar industrial complex established in the city of Fray Bentos in 1865.
The main building, originally covering 19 acres, is 15 m high and had two stories made of brick held together by pitch-pine beams. By the sides of the Uruguay River there used to stand the dock from where the tinned meat exported to the UK was shipped.
In 2009, the “Saladero M´Bopicuá” was declared Cultural Historical Monument by the National Cultural Heritage Committee.See photos
What is biodiversity?
Biodiversity, or biological diversity, refers to the variety of life, including genes, species and ecosystems.
The concept encompasses all life forms, alongside their distinguishing features. This includes cultural differentiating factors among the inhabitants of the planet.
Biodiversity as we know it is the result of millions of years of evolution. The latest geological periods, natural processes such as glaciations, and also human impact, have modified the biodiversity present in our planet.
In the three last centuries, as a consequence of the industrial revolution, the expansion of some crops and urbanization, biodiversity has reduced considerably, with the consequent extinction of or threat to a great number of vegetable and animal species.
The importance of conserving biodiversity
Living beings depend on each other, so that losing one of them will negatively affect another’s chance of survival.
Often, when we think of biodiversity loss we tend to focus on the damage we are inflicting on animal and vegetable species, and it is easy to forget the direct implications it has on us. The well-being of the human species requires biodiversity conservation, since we depend on a great number of species to obtain many basic products for our diet and healthcare.
Besides, biodiversity is a very important part of the culture and identity of many regions and peoples.
How can we conserve biodiversity?
Material resources are not endless: the only way to conserve them is to use them rationally or, in other words, to use them in a sustainable way.
“Sustainable use” means using biological diversity components in a way and at a pace that does not lead to their reduction in the long term, thus maintaining nature’s capacity to satisfy the needs and aspirations of present and future generations.
This idea can be found in the Convention on Biological Diversity, signed during at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, focusing on the planet’s future. In it, it was established as an essential point that everybody should be involved in the protection of biodiversity.
There are two main methods to conserve nature:
- In-Situ: by conserving genes, species and ecosystems in their natural habitats through the establishment of protected areas, and recovering degraded ones.
- Ex-Situ: by conserving biodiversity outside of its natural habitat, for example in zoos, reservations such as the M´Bopicuá Biopark or seed banks (germplasm).
What is a conservation area?
A conservation area is a geographic area with unique features related to biodiversity and landscape, with peculiar or challenged ecosystems, providing basic environmental services often fundamental for the satisfaction of local communities’ needs.
Montes del Plata owns several protected areas, four of which have been named “High Conservation Value Areas” (AAVC, after the Spanish initialism).
Research, monitoring and environmental education activities are carried out in these areas, which includes rehabilitation and conservation of native fauna and flora.
The variability of living organisms from any source, including, among others, land and sea ecosystems and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes they make part of. It encompasses diversity within each species, among species and of ecosystems themselves.
A dynamic complex in which vegetable, animal and microbial communities interact with each other and with their non-living environment as one functional unit.
Domesticated or cultivated species
A species with an evolution process influenced by humans seeking to satisfy their own needs.
The place or type of environment in which an organism or population exists.
Any material from a vegetable, animal, microbial or other origin containing functional units of heredity.
Genetic resources, organisms (or parts of them), populations or any other biotic component of ecosystems with real value or usefulness for humanity.
Genetic material with real or potential value.
The M´Bopicuá Biopark maintains open communication channels with educational and scientific institutions, both locally and internationally.
The M´Bopicuá Biopark has been recognized for its good management and development several times. For instance, it was declared of departmental interest by the Local Government of Rio Negro and, at the international level, it became a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).
University delegations visit the Biopark frequently, in particular from the Veterinary School and the Sciences School, with which there is ongoing collaboration.
In order to devise and execute its wildlife release plan, the Biopark coordinates actions with DINAMA, the corresponding regulating authority.
The M´Bopicuá Biopark is located in the department of Rio Negro, 12 km away from the city of Fray Bentos, (Mile 0, Route 24).