The Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network (WFEN) and the Wildlife Conservation Society-Argentina (WCS) are pleased to announce traceable Certified Wildlife Friendly wool—part of the “Patagonian Fibers with a Conscience” program—from the “Merino de Peninsula Valdés” ranchers who raise wool in coexistence with wildlife on Peninsula Valdés. The traceable certified wool is now available for purchase through a new online portal.
WCS Argentina supports the ranchers of the Merino Peninsula Valdés™ group who are committed to managing their ranches to allow healthy populations of guanacos, rheas, and maras to co-exist with their sheep, and to use non-lethal methods to control predation by pumas, chilla foxes, and Geoffroy’s and pampas cats. Fundación Vida Silvestre Argentina (FVSA) will provide third-party verification of compliance with commitments and collaborate with WCS to monitor impacts on wildlife. “We all agree in making the coexistence between sheep ranching and healthy wildlife a long-term achievement,” said Alejandro Arias, coordinator of the FVSA program in Península Valdés.
Península Valdés is a 4,000–square-kilometer (1,544 square miles) protected area in Patagonia, declared a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site in 1999. Compared to other sites in the region, the steppe of Península Valdés still harbors significant populations of native wildlife, and its waters are critical habitat for southern right whales, sea lions, and elephant seals during reproduction. Although a management plan has been effective in conserving coastal wildlife, the land is privately owned and sheep ranching is widespread within the area.
The six ranches of the group represent almost 10 percent of the Peninsula and produce over 50 metric tons of fine Merino wool per year. For decades, they have managed their sheep responsibly, keeping low stocking rates. As a result, significant numbers of wild herbivores and carnivores have persisted on their ranches. Regarding the coastline, properties of the MPV group harbor one of the most important and diverse nesting sites of marine birds in the region, a RAMSAR site of utmost importance for migratory shorebirds, a significantly high-density breeding colony of southern elephant seals, a growing colony of southern sea lions and more than 30 kilometers (more than 18 miles) of coastline where the southern right whales arrive to calve every season.
“These ranchers are committed to implement wildlife-friendly practices because they are convinced that their economic futures are better served by moving away from maximizing sheep stocking rates on their ranches and adding value by conserving native species at Península Valdés, an emblematic site of Patagonia. To achieve our goals, we are implementing management actions based on scientific research on wildlife ecology,” said Ricardo Baldi, a scientist from CONICET, the Argentine national science agency, and consultant for WCS.
“’Patagonian Fibers with a Conscience’ serves as an inspiring example of how to combine sustainability with effective conservation,” said Dr. Guillermo Harris, Director of WCS’s Argentina Program. “We’re showing that we can protect guanacos and other wildlife and support the local economy. It’s a win-win for Peninsula Valdés.” WCS work with these ranchers is supported by the USFWS Wildlife without Borders program.
“We’ve had keen interest in this wool from the sustainable fashion industry,” said Julie Stein, Executive Director of WFEN, a global community dedicated to enterprises that contribute to the conservation of threatened wildlife and to the economic vitality of rural landscapes. “It’s very exciting. For example, luxury-brand Bolek, has utilized this wool for their upcoming knitwear capsule collection.“
“Projects like Wildlife Friendly and Merino de Peninsula Valdés give new designers like me the unique opportunity to do what is right from the beginning,” said Sarah Chojecki, founder of Bolek. Ms. Chojecki, a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, is headquartered in New York City and curated a partnership with Wildlife Friendly on the basis that consumers should have ecological awareness and sustainability in the forefront of their minds when purchasing.
“This is one of the only landscapes in the world where wool is produced adjacent to a thriving marine ecosystem. It’s special,” Ms. Chojecki mused. “To have ranchers that go the extra mile to allow wildlife to have a safe refuge on private lands. It’s important. More individuals should be like this.”
“We applaud forward-thinking designers like Ms. Chojecki for building wildlife and sustainability into the DNA of their companies,” said Ms. Stein.
The shearing season in Patagonia occurs during October and November and wool is available for purchase beginning in December of each year. To learn more about wool specifications please visit the Merino de Península Valdés website. To inquire about purchasing Certified Wildlife Friendly wool from the Merino de Península Valdés group please contact Merino de Peninsula Valdés.