A tour for the entire family. Close to Punta Arenas, visit Parque Ñandú and hear the story of Jorge and Estrella, who have devoted themselves to raising these birds in their natural habitat.
A Magellan in his mid forties, Jorge, has lived at the estancia ever since he can remember. He was absent from this shelter in order to complete his university studies, which enabled him to become a vet. After graduating, he went back to life in the countryside to devote himself to cattle raising. His vocation made him worry about all local animals, but he would feel a special attraction towards the ñandú (rhea).“Maybe because this bird is the symbol of the region and because I was interested in learning about the diseases that affect mostly these animals” he explained enthusiastically.
The “Otway” estancia, best-known as Parque Ñandú, is located 57 km from the City of Punta Arenas. Here lives Jorge Laurido together with Estrella, forever his companion, and they both showed me how it was possible to make their little big dream come true.
In 1997, they presented a project before the Corfo (Corporación de Fomento de la Producción - Production Promotion Corporation) in order to practice the artificial breeding of rhea. “At present, we have more than 100 specimens” he asserts proudly, aware that only 20% of them could have survived without his intervention. The passion and effort this family has dedicated to achieve these results have made their facilities became known by the dwellers of Punta Arenas as “Parque Ñandú”.
Other animals in the area
The various development stages
The “Otway” estancia
Birds in their natural habitat
After a few years, Jorge and Estrella have resolved to study and breed other birds related to rheas and, based upon their characteristics, notice the existing similarities and differences. In addition to rhea breeding, a couple of Australian ostriches (emu) and another one of African ostriches were incorporated to the farm. The news of the existence of these exotic birds traveled fast and soon afterwards there was no one who would not like to see them.
“The difference between this ratite (emu, ostrich and rhea) artificial breeding project and so many others is that, in the rest of Chile, fertilized eggs are removed to be artificially incubated, whereas here, the male is permitted to hatch the eggs and raise the charitas (babies) until the beginning of the winter” pointed out the owner of the house.
As a result of the region’s tourist awakening, they did not hesitate to open the doors of their estancia and let visitors appreciate their labor and learn about the habits of these friendly feathered creatures. At Parque Ñandú, visitors may be photographed with the animals and even feed the one-month-old charitas.
As they access the park, visitors have the chance of observing the various development stages according to season. Therefore, it is possible to see the males hatching in their nests, copulating or taking care of their chicks, which is quite hard to appreciate in the wilderness.
As he noticed the curiosity of the people about the country lifestyle, in addition to the bird exhibition, Jorge presents an amusing show of sheep shearing in which participants learn the secrets of some wool related tasks.
The end of the tour found us tasting some delicious chocolate with homebaked bread at the estancia’s quincho. “In addition to being the best companion a man could ever have, Estrella can make bread like no one on this Earth”, smiled the lord of the rheas...
Marcelo Sola Jorge González
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