Animal Care and Volunteering in Iguazu Falls

Guira Oga, animal refuge in Iguazu Falls

Iguazu is a place with a great deal of biodiversity. Many species of birds, reptiles, insects, and mammals inhabit this area. The jungle is the home of these animals, and everyone’s desire is for it to remain so. And one of the interesting visits that can be made in the area, while you visit Iguazu, is the visit to the Wildlife Refuge called Guira Oga. First, let’s learn a little more about the mission of this animal refuge near the wonderful Iguazu Falls.

WHAT IS GUIRA OGA? THE ANIMAL REFUGE IN IGUAZU FALLS

The wildlife refuge GüiráOga (“the house of the birds” in Guarani language) was born out of the need for an establishment located in the Misiones jungle that would work with the local fauna.

It was founded on August 23, 1997, by Jorge Anfuso and Silvia Elsegood, naturalists and specialists in the rehabilitation of birds of prey, who are the current directors of the refuge.

The 19-hectare property where GüiráOga is located has the category of Protected Landscape and is named “Andrés Giai,” in tribute to the renowned naturalist (Provincial Law No. 3,468). GüiráOga is surrounded by protected natural areas such as Iguazú National Park to the south, Península Provincial Park, and other protected areas in northern Misiones, where the greatest biodiversity of wildlife is concentrated today.

Due to its location, GüiráOga can quickly respond to authorities when rescuing animals and give them the opportunity to recover successfully. The construction of the facilities was carried out while avoiding the deterioration of the jungle, so the refuge is covered by a centuries-old vegetation canopy, where up to 40 different species of trees have been identified, some measuring up to 30 meters.

 

ANIMAL CARE IN IGUAZU FALLS. GUIRA OGA: The Mission

RESCUE

Animals from the Misiones jungle that arrive at the refuge are rescued from wildlife trafficking, road accidents, injuries caused by poachers, or are voluntarily surrendered by the population.

RELEASE

Those that have the potential to survive in the wild are released, while efforts are made to rehabilitate those unable to survive for the reintroduction of their offspring.

RESEARCH

And develop education programs to raise awareness about the need to protect wildlife and the Misiones forest.

 

guira oga refuge of animals in Iguazu Falls

 

GUIRA OGA, ANIMAL REFUGE IN IGUAZU: A BIT OF HISTORY

In 1994, the Plata Ornithological Association (Aves Argentinas) inaugurated a branch in Misiones, led by the renowned environmentalist Juan Carlos Chébez.

Within that organization, Jorge and Silvia presented a project for the conservation of endangered birds in the Misiones jungle.

Selvatic eagles, some parrots, the yacutinga (a threatened montane guan), and the macuco (considered the largest partridge in the world) are part of the main objective. The idea was to rescue and rehabilitate birds confiscated by provincial authorities, injured by poachers, or voluntarily surrendered by the population.

The release of those that could survive in the wild was their great motivation. Those that did not have those possibilities and had to remain in captivity would be transferred to perfectly adapted enclosures, and their offspring could be released. Environmental education would be the fundamental tool to demonstrate that in the difficult task of conserving nature, there is much to be done, and that the commitment of each of us is very valuable.

Jorge and Silvia had much of the infrastructure and financial support for the start of the work and presented the project through the Plata Ornithological Association to the Ministry of Ecology of the Province of Misiones. The Ministry granted the land to start the project, and that was how GüiráOga was formed: Recovery and Rearing Center for Threatened Birds of the Misiones Jungle, House of Birds, as it is known in the region (from the Guarani language: Guirá=birds, Oga=house).

At the initiative of Juan Carlos Chébez, Luís Rey (Chamber of Representatives of the Province of Misiones), and Claudio Álvarez (Minister of Ecology), the 20-hectare property called “Protected Landscape” under Provincial Law No. 3468 was transferred. It is named after Andrés Gaspar Giai, in honor of the naturalist who conducted the first research in the northern Province of Misiones.

On May 23, 1996, the government of the Province of Misiones granted the land, and on August 23, 1997, GüiráOga was inaugurated.

Jorge and Silvia’s idea was always not to cut down trees for the construction of enclosures and infrastructure. The constructions were carried out in places where, either due to storms or because humans had passed through before, gaps were left in the jungle. Rosewood, red anchico, timbó, fistula cane, and Misiones cedar, among others, provide an exceptional framework for this project. Some 150 species of wild birds frequent the area, many of them considered difficult to observe. Unique species such as the small mountain falcon (Falco rufigularis), the urutau (Nyctibius griseus), and the red-backed cacique (Cacicus haemorrhous) nest in the area.

Little by little, the first part of the project was completed. Many volunteers joined, and others also made donations to help in the beginnings. The transmission of electrical energy from Route 12 to the heart of the center was done with special underground wiring to avoid environmental and visual impact due to that artificial obstacle in the jungle.

The goal was to avoid the deterioration caused by infrastructure of this nature within the jungle, thus demonstrating that when humans set their minds to it, they can live in peace and harmony with the surrounding environment. Thanks to the care with which this work was carried out along with Iguazú National Park, in 2003 they received the “Conserving the Future” award from the National Parks Administration, one of the many distinctions obtained over all these years.

The first officially admitted animal was a black howler monkey or howler monkey (Alouatta caraya). This was followed by deer, wild cats, and other mammals. Gradually, those initial facilities that were built to house only birds were filled with other animals. This forced us to build new infrastructures to shelter different species of our Misiones wildlife.

In 2007, GüiráOga was reopened with the arrival of the Félix de Azara Natural History Foundation with a new agreement with the Ministry of Ecology and Renewable Natural Resources and Tourism. The Azara Foundation later manages the funds necessary for the construction of new enclosures, walkways, and other works in the private sector.

Each enclosure, path, walkway, and installation bears the GüiráOga seal; everything is done with center personnel. From the very beginning of the project in 1996, existing works have generally been conceived under the direction of its founders. The jungle property is characterized by the respect that has been shown for the existing jungle, without eliminating trees for its construction. Everything has been erected in places where the forest had scars due to storms, whose trees had fallen, or because humans had already passed through. Everything was planned to reduce the impact on the existing fauna. No aerial wiring has been used (which would endanger the lives of birds) as they would collide with them, in addition to the visual impact that a network of cables between installations would produce in the middle of the jungle. Everything has been planned to demonstrate that coexistence between humans and the jungle is possible. Even the enclosures were built to reduce the danger of falling trees during storms.

GüiráOga was born with the effort, passion, and enthusiasm of its founders, and today continues with the same spirit as always, where the value of craftsmanship and “Home Made” can sustain a conservation project like GüiráOga, which has already transcended the borders of our country.

Animal Refuge in Iguazu Falls. Volunteering in Iguazu Falls. Guira Oga

GUIRA OGA: HOW DOES THE ANIMAL PROTECTION PROTOCOL WORK?

The wildlife refuge in Iguazu Falls has a protocol for the arrival of a new animal in need of protection. It consists of the following steps:

Animal Reception

Animals are referred to GüiráOga for various reasons.
Some enter after being hit by vehicles on the province’s roads or injured by poachers. Others come from the illegal wildlife trade or are voluntarily surrendered by individuals who kept them as pets.
We also receive wild animals found injured or still as nestlings.

Veterinary Care

Animals are immediately attended to by veterinary staff to assess their condition and take timely measures.
Many of the animals hit by vehicles arrive dead or die within the first few hours. Those that survive often have severe trauma and require emergency intervention. Gunshot wounds also require immediate action.

Animals from confiscations or voluntarily surrendered are transferred to quarantine enclosures. Isolation and observation of these animals are important for examination and sample collection to ensure their good condition before proceeding to the next step.

Quarantine

Animals in need of recovery are transferred to the quarantine area. Here, analyses are conducted to determine their health status to verify that they do not carry any diseases or infections before being placed in recovery enclosures.
Newborn animals are exclusively cared for in a separate area. Their growth is monitored until they are out of danger.

Recovery

Once the quarantine phase is completed, patients are prepared to be transferred to recovery enclosures.
Their injuries are monitored and evaluated periodically by veterinarians to determine their progress.

Once fully recovered, the animals are moved to rehabilitation enclosures.

Rehabilitation and Adaptation
Rehabilitation enclosures are spacious and designed to recreate the natural habitat.
In these facilities, animals have the opportunity to interact with others of the same species and exhibit typical behaviors.

Observing their behavior helps determine if the animal is fit for release into the Misiones jungle.

Release

Returning animals to the jungle is our goal, so we work to ensure that the maximum number of animals are released.
To guarantee the survival of individuals, only those that have successfully passed through the various stages are released, ensuring good health and the ability to interact with the environment by reproducing typical species behavior patterns.

Captive Breeding

Young individuals that, for various reasons, do not recover and rehabilitate, become part of captive breeding programs, giving their offspring the opportunity to return to nature.
Species such as the macuco (Tynamus solitarius), an endangered bird, have been successfully reproducing at the refuge for several years, leaving a descendant of more than 100 individuals.

Other animals reproducing successfully at GüiráOga include montane guans (Penélope superciliaris), howler monkeys (Alouatta caraya), capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella), different species of parrots, hawks, etc.

Environmental Education

Animals that cannot be used for captive breeding due to their advanced age, mutilations, or having been raised as pets are directed to the educational sector.
Permanent residents live in enclosures strategically located within the jungle.

Thanks to guided tours of GüiráOga, you can personally witness our work and meet the permanent residents, each with its own story to tell.

IGUAZU ANIMAL REFUGE: HOW TO HELP?

Güirá Oga is an entity that depends exclusively on those who visit us, thus achieving completely autonomous financing

Financial Contribution

Your collaboration is greatly appreciated to ensure that our work continues and we can operate with all the necessary resources, thereby improving our effectiveness. Thanks to financial contributions, we can build new enclosures or expand existing ones, providing the refuge’s guests with greater well-being and faster recovery.

You will also be supporting the Isla Palacio Project, offering many animals the opportunity to return to the Misiones jungle.

 

Material Contribution

Every day, many resources are used to ensure that the animals receive optimal care and have a safe place during their stay.

You can help us by providing materials for various areas of operation:

Hospital supplies (medications, wound care materials, surgical instruments, medical equipment, incubators, scales, transport boxes…)
Cleaning supplies (detergents, bleach, disinfectants…)
Construction materials (used to build new enclosures and repair existing ones)
Conservation project materials (fuel, food, camping equipment, binoculars…)
Communication materials (graphic and audiovisual material design)

 

Guira Oga, animal refuge and voluteering work in Iguazu Falls

 

VOLUNTEERING TOURS IN IGUAZU FALLS

Our sales team can arrange and work with you, to offer a good volunteering tour and help to the animals working with Guira Oga, during your visit to the Iguazu Falls area. Do not hesitate to contact us. We will design a wonderful volunteering program for you and your group.

 

HOW TO VISIT GUIRA OGA, THE ANIMAL REFUGE IN IGUAZU FALLS?

You will walk through trails surrounded by the Misiones jungle and meet its inhabitants in enclosures that preserve the local vegetation, offering animals that cannot be released the opportunity to live in their habitat. GüiráOga will make you reflect on the need to protect wildlife and its environment… but remember, the refuge is not a zoo, it is a center where you will meet animals whose injuries prevent them from surviving in the wild, as well as animals that are recovering and will soon return to their home, the Misiones jungle.

With your visit, you help our work continue, as despite having the institutional support of the Azara Foundation and the Ministry of Ecology of the Province of Misiones, we depend exclusively on those who visit us, thus achieving completely autonomous financing

 

Ramiro Rodriguez

Ramiro Rodriguez

25 years working in the travel industry, as Sales & Marketing Manager at RipioTurismo. Marketing Manager at Nuevas Ideas Travel Consulting Group. Writer and travel lover.

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