The hooded grebe (Podiceps gallardoi) is a globally listed critically endangered bird species that inhabits the plateaus of western Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. The conservation threats affecting the species have been recently identified and management actions have been considered a priority for their conservation. Since 2009, a team from universities and conservation NGOs has been committed to protecting the species, and since 2011 CREOi has funded a large part of the work. During the 2012-2013 season, 339 lagoons were monitored, and 828 individuals and nine breeding colonies were identified. Birds were sighted at 29 lagoons located on seven high altitude plateaus in western Santa Cruz Province, primarily at the plateaus of Lago Buenos Aires, Lago Strobel and La Siberia.
Given the urgent situation faced by the hooded grebe, this past season the team also began defining action and management plans for introduced and invasive species, such as rainbow trout and American mink. During the period funded by CREOi, not only were management plans developed, but they were also implemented, albeit experimentally. Prior to implementation of these plans, the team carried out an intensive outreach effort among local communities and especially the ranchlands that these invasive species inhabit. During implementation of the rainbow trout management plan, 161 lagoons were monitored on Lago Strobel Plateau in collaboration with a limnology team from University of Buenos Aires with the goal of getting a baseline of the current status of the lagoons affected by the presence of rainbow trout. During November 2013, important connections were made with fishing companies and proprietors to advance habitat restoration efforts in lagoons stocked with trout that were historically important for the hooded grebe. Initiation of the American mink management plan was also encouraging, especially with regard to social engagement, given that local residents were very receptive to control measures and strong ties were developed for the future. Monitoring of colonies has demonstrated that control of invasive species enhances reproductive success of hooded grebes. Ultimately, collaborations with the National Parks Administration and NGOs that focus on establishing protected areas were extremely valuable for bringing the future Patagonia National Park, located on the Lago Buenos Aires Plateau, closer to reality. ($7,927)