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Ruddy-headed Goose: a species in critical danger of extinction

The Ruddy-headed Goose (Chloephaga rubidiceps) is a species classified as Critically Endangered and is in serious danger of extinction. The Urban Coastal Reserve of Río Gallegos is a site of great importance for its conservation since many adults remain in it during the breeding season and it is possible that they tried to nest if there were not so many introduced predators, mainly dogs and cats.

In our region, for more than 15 years, in collaboration with other institutions and since 2006 in the Urban Coastal Reserve of Río Gallegos and its surrounding area, researchers from Ambiente Sur have carried out surveys and counts of the species, which has also been sighted in other urban nature reserves of the city, such as the RNU Laguna Ortiz after the recovery, fencing and sanitation work that took place there. The works of counting and search of cauquenes later spread to other zones of the Province, like the historical zone, between Río Gallegos and Cabo Vírgenes; in Río Turbio and the Coyle River, where there was always a concentration of cauquenes, mainly common and real. It is important to consider that in the southeast of Santa Cruz is the most important reproductive zone for the species in our country.

These antecedents and the critical danger of extinction that faces the Ruddy-headed Goose, of a magnitude similar to that of the Hodded Grebe, motivated that it be included in all the tasks of environmental education and awareness that the Asociación Ambiente Sur develops. "El Colo" has been part of the campaigns and works that were made from the NGO for the students of kindergartens, schools and adults, reaching thousands of children in Río Gallegos who have heard about the Ruddy-headed Goose, its environment and its conservation problems.

Now, since 2017, the Association is carrying out the Ruddy-headed Goose Awareness Project, which is carried out simultaneously in Río Grande (Tierra del Fuego), Río Gallegos (Santa Cruz) and the surroundings of both cities. The project is one of the lines of work that the NGO carries out within the framework of the COM.UNI.D.A.D. (UNDERSTANDS of Environmental Diversity in Diversity) and has the support of the "Zero Extinction" Program of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development of the Nation.

The Ruddy-headed Goose is a migratory species, measures 50 cm and is very similar to the female of the Upland Goose (known as avutarda), which is distinguished by its finest barred on the chest, the orange legs without yellowish hue, the ring white around the eye and its smaller size. The shape of the head presents differences in the frontal zone, being whitish and of more stylized appearance than that of the common cauquén, of more pronounced form, what also allows to distinguish them, especially when the direct comparison is possible.

They are usually found in pairs or small groups, associated with upland gooses, but staying on the periphery of the groups. Unlike the common ones, if they feel threatened, they flee to the grasslands instead of to the water, which seems to be a disadvantage for the chicks that can be more easily captured by predators.

The Ruddy-headed Goose uses the vicinity of the estuary as a resting and feeding area. Regarding the nesting sites, the only records in the Argentine continental zone in the last decades correspond to the area of the Estancia Cóndor, the Cabo Vírgenes reserve and the Strait of Magellan.

Awareness project  for  “the Colorado”

The awareness project on the Ruddy-headed Goose will continue during 2018 with the actions already undertaken as theater, environmental education, distribution of graphic materials with information of the species, presentation of the mascot "El Colo", which represents the bird, among other actions. From April 16 to May 4  the NGO will dictate workshops on the red cauquén to children of 4th grade of the primary level, which will be in charge of the educators of the Association. Through an interactive presentation, games and the presence of the mascot "El Colo", the students will be able to know the species, its characteristics, the threats it faces, why it is in danger of extinction and what actions are being carried out to avoid it. The mascot is a fundamental tool in the sensitization of children, who interact with it and who, in the framework of the workshop, invites them to sing a song about the protection of birds. As usual in this work carried out by Ambiente Sur, the NGO team has prepared pedagogical material in digital and printed format, which will be given to the teachers to continue working in the classroom.

Since the beginning of the Project, Ambiente Sur has held talks with specialists from Argentina and Chile about the species and its conservation status; the public presentation in gardens and schools of the mascot "El Colo"; the development of "Coloface", a printed material with a Facebook page format where specific information about the bird will be disseminated and the premiere of the fourth environmental play for children, produced by Ambiente Sur with local artists: "Odyssey for survival" , which was seen by more than a thousand spectators and which will offer new functions for children and adults during this year.

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