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.
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.
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.
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.
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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