Photographer in Argentina returns desolate, developed land to a thriving jungle

Slowly and deliberately, we began removing the wire fences separating the livestock. We dug into the ground, planting native trees to replenish the forest. As if by magic, butterflies began to appear, filling the landscape with their vibrant presence. Insects and birds followed, and the entire ecosystem began to flourish.

  • 10 months ago
  • July 7, 2023
5 min read
Matías Romano is a nature photographer and conservationist. He embarked on a journey to regenerate the jungle in Argentina 10 years ago, working tirelessly to plant trees and protect the wildlife. He founded the Bayka organization, which currently runs two reserves, hoping to expand in the future.
Nature reserves are semi-protected areas managed by human beings. They are also designated by and/or run by government institutions and non-profit organizations. They are often based upon and source of scientific research. In Argentina, there are currently 39 National Parks, six nature reserves, three marine parks, two marine protected areas and two natural monuments. 

MISIONES, Argentina — Ten years ago, I embarked on a journey to restore a small part of the planet. I launched the environmental organization Bayka. Our aim: to actively develop regeneration projects in the Misiones Jungle and preserve its rich biodiversity. We created two wonderous nature reserves.

As a photographer, I felt deeply connected to nature. Through my photographs, I immortalized the beauty I witnessed, but my travels revealed something more. I saw the impact of global warming. Endangered animals, limited water supply, polluted air, and loss of vegetation plagued my mind. I needed to focus my attention. Through hard work and a great deal of time, we mobilized.

Today, Bayka manages nature reserves in San Sebastián de la Selva and La Morita. Day in and day out, we witness the creation of new life, right before our eyes.

Read more stories related to nature preservation at Orato World Media 

The San Sebastián de la Selva reserve transforms from grasslands to flourishing ecosystem

When we acquired the farmland in the Misiones Jungle to create the first nature reserve, we witnessed a vast expanse covered in grass and dotted with cattle, but one thing was missing. There were no trees. Slowly and deliberately, we began removing the wire fences separating the livestock. We dug into the ground, planting native trees to replenish the forest. As if by magic, butterflies began to appear, filling the landscape with their vibrant presence. Insects and birds followed, and the entire ecosystem began to flourish.

The beauty before us had a tangible emotional impact. We felt moved by what we saw. An area once covered in short grass and grazing cows now includes peccaries, roe deer, and a wide array of birds. The insect population began to thrive, and the flora returned. We now see a whole kingdom of fungi. Through ecological restoration, we witnessed the incredible resilience of nature firsthand. Now, I wake up every morning eager to start the day.

I may never witness the full growth of the trees we plant in my lifetime. That does not deter me. My purpose grows through a sense of responsibility; to restore nature and make a positive impact on the planet. Traveling back and forth between Buenos Aires and the jungle, I watch as our actions lead to vital, lasting change.

Teeming with life, nature is constantly in motion

Meandering through San Sebastián de la Selva, you encounter not only a revitalization of nature, but cabins and barbecue areas. Sections of nature, once deforested, reveal astonishing growth. Tall trees adorn the land where new life emerges every day. In a clearing, you catch a glimpse of a hill covered in vegetation. It feels as though you are transported to another world.

A constant chorus of bird songs echoes through the woods. In the distance, you hear the gentle flow of a waterfall. When the rain comes, the waterfall grows louder and louder. Every step brings new surprises. A butterfly sits camouflaged against a tree trunk as a colorful bird feasts on fruits. The reserve teems with life.

Above all, this has become a place where nature is in constant motion. In the nursery, we cultivate plants and the river takes center stage. Its vibrant colors and sheer power astonish everyone. I imagine the indigenous Guarani people of South America sailing a canoe 500 years ago, and I feel as though I see the landscape through their eyes. A deep connection to the natural world ensues, evoking a sense of wonder an appreciation for the beauty and intricacy of life in all its forms.

Patience and partnership remain key to honoring and preserving nature

Through all of these experiences, I have learned the value of patience. In this sacred place, animals remain highly attuned to our energy. It influences their response to our presence. As I work to capture the perfect portrait of an animal, I must remain calm and fearless in order to experience a deeper connection with them.

These two reserves play a vital role in bird conservation in Argentina. We collectively harbor 37 percent of the country’s bird species. San Sebastián de la Selva encompasses 100 hectares (247) acres of land, strategically located in the heart of the ECU-F, or the Ecological Corridor Urugua-í – Foerster. The second reserve, La Morita, spans 37 hectares (91 acres) along the banks of the Iguazú River. It connects the Iguazú National Parks of Argentina and Brazil. 

Today, we continue to grow our aspirations. Nature reserves remain extraordinarily important in conserving animal populations and their habitats. Our primary challenge includes attracting more individuals with the passion to make a positive environmental impact. By engaging like-minded companies and people, we can collaborate to restore additional areas.

We aim to advance the restoration process even further. This is our guiding principle. As we seek to grow, we continue to gather information, monitor our reserves, and expand our understanding of that which we are conserving.

All photos courtesy of Team Bayka.

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