Fauna

Species

The species living in the breeding centre were chosen on the basis of 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. Currently, over 600 specimens of around 60 different species live in the Biopark.

Fauna breeding

During the years the Biopark has been functioning, the following species have been successfully reproduced:

Mammals

Pampas Deer (Ozotoceros bezoarticus), one of the cervidae most in danger of extinction in the world, declared Natural Monument of Uruguay.

Brown Brocket (Mazama gouazoubira)

Lesser Anteater (Tamandua tetradactyla)

Collared Pecary (Tayassu tajacu)

Ring-tailed Coati (Nasua nasua)

Pampas Cat (Leopardus braccatus)

Margay (Leopardus wiedii)

Geoffroy’s Cat (Leopardus geoffroyi)

River Otter (Lontra longicaudis)

Crab-eating Racoon (Procyon cancrivorus)

Hairy Tree Porcupine (Sphiggurus spinosus)

Birds

Out of the 43 species, ninety percent reproduce regularly. The following stand out for their rarity:

Yellow Cardinal (Gubernatrix cristata)

Coscoroba Swan (Coscoroba coscoroba)

Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata)

Red-legged Seriema (Cariama cristata)

Maroon-Bellied Parakeet (Phyrrura frontalis)

Roseate Spoonbill (Ajaia ajaja)

Reptiles

the Broad-snouted Caiman (Caiman latirostris).

At the start of the reproductive season, the female of the species builds a mound made of dirt and remains of plants, laying in the centre between 30 and 40 eggs which are then incubated by the action of the sun and the rotting vegetable matter. For approximately 85 days (the length of the incubation period), the female takes care of her nest. This is the only period when she becomes aggressive, and she may attack any creatures trying to approach the nest. As soon as the young hatch, she takes them to the water in her mouth and for the first few weeks she defends them against predators.

On the other hand, eggs of the species are collected across Montes del Plata lands using the “rancheo” technique, consisting of the removal of nests followed by artificial incubation in order to ensure the survival of the young.

Several releases of Broad-snouted Caimans have been made in natural areas recently.

Species reintroduction

Complying with one of the main goals of the Biopark, diverse reintroductions of animals into the natural environment have been made.

These activities are carried out with the previous approval of the National Environment Department. For higher guarantees in the reintroduction process, Montes del Plata follows a sanitary checkup protocol for the animals to be reintroduced. There is also a previous adaptation period during which the only food given to them is the kind they will find in the environment of the release.

In quantitative terms, the reintroduction of Ring-tailed Coatis, Broad-snouted Caimans and Collared Pecaries stand out. Ring-tailed Coatis have been released twice on the Santo Domingo land, Paysandú department - the first experience in Uruguay of a reintroduction of a native carnivore. The success of these activities has been confirmed with follow-up monitoring that showed the released animals had adjusted perfectly well. Also, Broad-snouted Caimans have been release into the Tierras Coloradas creek in Santo Domingo.

2017 marked a milestone for the M´Bopicuá Biopark: the reintroduction of Collared Pecaries into their natural habitat, under the authorization and coordination of the National Environmental Agency. In this way, this species, extinct in Uruguay for over 100 years and declared a conservation priority by the National System of Protected Areas, came back to live on Uruguayan land. 

Mammals

Pampas Deer

((Ozotoceros bezoarticus))

One of the cervidae in greatest danger of extinction in the world. Lives in herds of 6 to 30 members. Only males have antlers. Named “Natural Monument of Uruguay” by the Uruguayan government in 1985.

  • Distribution
    Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil.

  • Habitat
    Grasslands.

  • Diet
    Herbivore.

  • Activity
    Diurnal.

Mammals

Brown Brocket

((Mazama gouazoubira))

Called “phantom deer” due to its ability to rapidly disappear among the vegetation.

  • Distribution
    South America.

  • Habitat
    Hill forests and forestal woods.

  • Diet
    Herbivore: grass, leaves and wild fruits

  • Activity
    Crepuscular.

Mammals

Collared Pecary

((Tayassu tajacu))

A gregarious species that became extinct in Uruguay towards the beginning of the 20th century. Lives in herds of up to 50 members, led by females. Gestation period is 145 days. It rarely has more than one or two offspring.

  • Distribution
    From northwest Argentina to the Southern United States.

  • Habitat
    High indigenous woods.

  • Diet
    Omnivore: fruits, stems, roots and small animals

  • Activity
    Diurnal.

Mammals

Ring-tailed Coati

((Nasua nasua))

Females live in large groups with their young. Males are solitary. Has between 3 and 8 offspring after approximately 7- day  gestation period.

  • Distribution
    South America.

  • Habitat
    Woods and forests.

  • Diet
    Omnivore: fruits, insects, eggs, birds and small animals.

  • Activity
    Diurnal.

Mammals

Pampas Cat

((Leopardus braccatus))

Characterized by its long coat, which helps it blend in with dry vegetation thanks to its colour.

  • Distribution
    From southern Uruguay and Argentina to Ecuador.

  • Habitat
    Grasslands with scrublands.

  • Diet
    Carnivore: birds and rodents.

  • Activity
    Crepuscular.

Mammals

Geoffroy’s Cat

((Leopardus geoffroyi))

Like panthers, there may be cases of melanistic (black) fur.

  • Distribution
    Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.

  • Habitat
    Gallery forests and hill lands.

  • Diet
    Carnivore: birds, rodents and fish.

  • Activity
    Nocturnal.

Mammals

River Otter

((Lutra longicaudis))

This is the real “otter”, even though the name is usually applied to a certain aquatic rodent. Excellent swimmer and diver.

  • Distribution
    South America.

  • Habitat
    Riverbanks, stream banks, marshes, lagoons.

  • Diet
    Carnivore: fish, frogs, aquatic birds and rodents.

  • Activity
    Nocturnal.

Mammals

Crab-eating Racoon

((Procyon cancrivorus))

Its hairless hands give it its name in Spanish. Often takes shelter during the day in hollow logs or on the high branches of trees. Females have between two and four offspring after a gestation period of 60-75 days.

  • Distribution
    From Uruguay and Argentina to Panama.

  • Habitat
    Gallery forests.

  • Diet
    Omnivore: fruits, eggs, insects, crayfish, frogs, birds and rodents.

  • Activity
    Nocturnal.

Mammals

Hairy Tree Porcupine

((Sphiggurus spinosus))

Solitary by nature, spends most of its life on trees, moving slowly along the branches with its prehensile tail. Only one litter per year, after a 200-day gestation period. Contrary to popular belief, the Hairy tree porcupine does not throw its quills at its attackers.

  • Distribution
    Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and southeastern Brazil.

  • Habitat
    Woods.

  • Diet
    Herbivore: fruits, leaves, flowers and bark.

  • Activity
    Crepuscular and nocturnal. Arboreal.

Mammals

Black Howler

((Alouatta caraya))

Lives in family groups with one adult male, several females and offspring. The male of the species has a black coat and the female a yellowish one. Males grunt loudly at dawn and dusk.

  • Distribution
    Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil. In Uruguay it can be found in the departments of Rivera and Artigas.

  • Habitat
    Forests and gallery forests.

  • Diet
    Herbivore: leaves and fruits from various trees.

  • Activity
    Diurnal and arboreal.

Mammals

Lesser Grisson

((Galictis cuja))

Occasionally found in small groups moving in line.

  • Distribution
    From Uruguay and Argentina to southern Peru.

  • Habitat
    Prairies and grasslands.

  • Diet
    Carnivore: Brazilian guinea pigs, rats, mice, lizards, and birds and their eggs.

  • Activity
    Diurnal.

Mammals

Lesser Anteater

((Tamandua tetradactyla))

Solitary walker; arboreal by nature, it uses its claws and prehensile tails to aid themselves in climbing. Takes shelter in hollow tree trunks or abandoned burrows. Only one offspring, after five months of gestation.

  • Distribution
    From Uruguay, northern Argentina and southern Brazil to Venezuela. In Uruguay, it can be found in Treinta y Tres, Lavalleja, Cerro Largo, Tacuarembó, Rivera and Salto.

  • Habitat
    Forests and hill lands.

  • Diet
    Ants and termites. Rips open anthills with its strong claws and captures ants using its sticky elongated tongue (up to 40 cm long). Eats approximately 10,000 ants a day.

  • Activity
    Nocturnal and arboreal.

Mammals

Margay

((Leopardus wiedii))

Its unique ability among cats to rotate its hind legs at a 180-degree angle allows it to climb down trees head first or hang from branches.

  • Distribution
    From northeastern Uruguay and Argentina to Mexico.

  • Habitat
    Woods and forests.

  • Diet
    Carnivore: birds and small mammals.

  • Activity
    Nocturnal.

Mammals

Six-banded Armadillo

((Euphractus sexcinctus))

Solitary, digs deep dens up to 2 m long and 20 cm in diameter. Females may have two to three young after a 60-day gestation period.

  • Distribution
    South America.

  • Habitat
    Grasslands and hills close to the water.

  • Diet
    Omnivore: insects and larvae, frogs, tubercles, fallen fruits and carrion.

  • Activity
    Nocturnal.

Mammals

Cougar

((Puma concolor))

Agile and fast, in a single night it can run for 70 km. At birth, the young have mottled fur.

  • Distribution
    From Argentina to Canada.

  • Habitat
    Varied (grasslands, forests, mountains).

  • Diet
    Carnivore: deer, small mammals and birds.

  • Activity
    Nocturnal.

Mammals

Jaguar

((Panthera onca))

In guarani, Yaguareté means “the true beast”. The largest feline in the Americas and the third largest in the world, at a weight of above 100 kg. An expert swimmer. There are both spotted and black melanistic specimens. Could be found in Uruguay until the late 19th century. Many travellers and historians recorded the presence and abundance of the Yaguareté, or Jaguar, in their stories and chronicles. Before 1830, it was not unusual to see these cats venturing into the fortified city of Montevideo. Night watch was suspended in Rocha’s San Miguel fort due to their frequent attacks. There is even an old 1818 story according to which, in one of Artigas’s camps, a Yaguareté roamed a refuge where the hero was taking shelter from the rain, and it ended up taking away one of the dogs.

  • Distribution
    From Argentina to the Southern United States. Currently exterminated in many areas. Common in Uruguay until the mid-19th century, even in the outskirts of Montevideo.

  • Habitat
    Forests and woodlands, grasslands and scrublands, preferably near water.

  • Diet
    Deer, peccaries, capybaras, and even birds, turtles and fish. May attack domestic livestock if pray is lacking.

  • Activity
    Nocturnal.

Birds

Toco Toucan

((Ramphastos toco))

Lives in loud groups and nests in hollow trunks.

  • Distribution
    Eastern Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Brazil and Guyana.

  • Habitat
    Forests and woods.

  • Diet
    Omnivore: fruits, lizards, small birds and eggs.

  • Activity
    Diurnal.

Birds

Greater Rhea

((Rhea americana))

The largest bird in South America, it is well-suited to running and can reach speeds of up to 60 km/h. The male of the species gathers several females to lay eggs in its nest. The male takes care of incubation (six weeks) and of raising the hatchlings (charabones, in Spanish) while the females join other breeding groups.

  • Distribution
    Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil.

  • Habitat
    Grasslands and scrublands; farmlands.

  • Diet
    Grasses, seeds, fruits, insects, reptiles and mice.

  • Activity
    Diurnal.

Birds

Red-legged Seriema

((Cariama cristata))

Sings a very loud, repetitive song, especially at dawn and dusk.

  • Distribution
    Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and central and southern Brazil.

  • Habitat
    Grasslands with trees.

  • Diet
    Insects and small vertebrates (mice, snakes and lizards).

  • Activity
    Diurnal.

Birds

Barn Owl

((Tyto alba))

This bird is beneficial for humans since it feeds on rodents which transmit dangerous illnesses such as Hantavirus.

  • Distribution
    Cosmopolitan, practically worldwide.

  • Habitat
    Various. Takes shelter in belfries, barns and other dark places during the daytime.

  • Diet
    Small rodents (mice, Brazilian guinea pigs). Also feeds on bats, marmosas, birds, amphibians, reptiles and insects. The number of clutches and the time of the year at which they happen, as well as the number of eggs they contain, depend to a great extent on the real feeding chances around.

  • Activity
    Nocturnal.

Birds

Bicoloured Hawk

((Accipiter bicolor))

Completely adapted to living in woods, the Bicoloured Hawk zig-zags swiftly among the trees chasing birds, its main food.

  • Distribution
    From Uruguay to Mexico.

  • Habitat
    Woods.

  • Diet
    Carnivore: almost exclusively birds.

  • Activity
    Diurnal.

Birds

Great Horned Owl

((Bubo virginianus))

Nests in winter so that fledglings have two prey-abundant seasons (spring and summer) and have the chance to learn how to catch them.

  • Distribution
    From Uruguay and Argentina to Canada.

  • Habitat
    Woods.

  • Diet
    Carnivore: reptiles, birds and mammals.

  • Activity
    Nocturnal.

Birds

Yellow Cardinal

((Gubernatrix cristata))

The male stands out from the female thanks to its black chest and overall brighter colours. Sings a loud, modulated song forming a musical series of 4 or 5 whistles. In danger of extinction, it has an estimated global population of 1,500 to 3,000 specimens. In Uruguay, where the estimates are of 300 individuals in the entire country, it has been included in the Priority Species for Conservation (SNAP/DINAMA, National Environmental Agency).

  • Distribution
    Uruguay, Argentina and southern Brazil.

  • Habitat
    Open woods and scrubby woodland with scutia buxifolia and carob trees.

  • Diet
    Seeds. During the reproductive season, its diet is supplemented with berry-like fruits and insects.

  • Activity
    Diurnal. Generally lives in pairs.

Reptile

Broad-snouted Caiman

((Caiman latirostris))

In December, the female lays from 20 to 40 eggs on a nest 1 to 2 m wide and 40 to 80 cm high which it builds with vegetation remains. After 85 days’ incubation, the offspring hatch and they are protected by their mother over the first few months.

Montes del Plata maintains and manages a conservation area on a forestal plot in Paysandú where there is a natural population of Broad-snouted Caimans. This area is prone to flooding, which is why nests can be easily lost. So, there is a management and conservation using the technique of “rancheo”, whereby eggs are collected and artificially incubated in the Biopark.

Offspring are kept in captivity before being returned to their natural habitat, which increases their survival chances to nearly 100%, while under natural conditions there is an estimated first-year survival rate of 5%

  • Distribution
    Northeastern Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and southern Brazil.

  • Habitat
    Marginal lakes, marshes and starlings.

  • Diet
    Carnivore: fish, snails, frogs, birds and small mammals.

  • Activity
    Nocturnal.

Lake of the Yacaré

Besides the natural reproduction occurring in and around this lake, the technique of “rancheo” has been put into practice. Following this technique, nests at risk of being lost in floods or for other reasons are collected from nature in order to artificially incubate their eggs. The offspring are then kept in captivity for two years, before returning them to their natural environment.

Under natural conditions, there is an estimated 5% survival chance rate after the first year, due to the existence of other species feeding on them: herons, river otters and tarariras, among others. Liberating them at two years of age increases survival rates greatly.

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