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ANDES PATAGONIAN, CHILE
Over 240,000 acres of temperate Patagonian Rainforest, under the Chilean Andes, is home to Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve. Working to support nature and local culture, the reserve’s Huilo Huilo Foundation ensures that conservation and environmental work benefits local communities.
Through botanical restoration and environmentally-friendly landscaping, the reserve has managed to rehabilitate damaged ecosystems. Besides from protecting species like the puma and Darwin frog, the Huilo Huilo Foundation has been successful in preserving and breeding the nearly extinct Huemul deer, which is Chile’s national symbol. The reserve supports the local economy through tourism; an impressive 90% of employees come from surrounding villages. Recognising the importance of documenting the ancient myths and cultural heritage of indigenous people, Huilo Huilo has built a museum featuring more than 350 pieces of history.
Guests stay in pretty rooms scattered between Mountain Lodge, Canopy Village and Nothofagus Hotel, which are all designed to represent natural and cultural heritage. Year-round activities focus on the natural beauty of the rainforest while demonstrating why it is such a hotspot for conservation. By creating a unique travel experience, Huilo Huilo hopes that visitors become ambassadors for their environmental and conservation mission.
Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve joined The Long Run in 2013 and committed to a holistic balance of the 4Cs – Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce – as a means to contribute meaningfully to the biodiversity and the people of their local region.
Huilo Huilo is making a significant contribution in protecting the Temperate Rainforest, aquatic systems and other ecosystems present in the region. They work to rehabilitate damaged ecosystems through environmentally friendly landscaping and botanical restoration focused on conservation. By supporting scientific research projects the aim is to attain a better understanding of biological processes that aid conservation.
Huilo Huilo is a pioneer in research and emblematic projects like the Patagonian Huemul Conservation Center, which protects Chile’s national emblem the Patagonian Huemul, a deer in threat of extinction. Huilo Huilo Foundation facilitates several other conservation projects on endangered species, such as the Darwin Frog, the Guanacos and the Puma to ensure the natural equilibrium and restore their presence in the Temperate Rainforest.
Huilo Huilo was also instrumental in the establishment, and remains an active member, of “Así Conserva Chile”, an organization that brings together 100 private areas throughout Chile that will strengthen the integration of protected areas into a national system for the protection of areas of high ecological and cultural value. By creating a legal status and institutional framework for these private reserves, including communities of native peoples, the organization hope to create economic incentives for the conservation of these areas.
Because biodiversity conservation is at the heart of Huilo Huilo’s work, significant efforts are placed on raising awareness about the native flora and fauna to ensure that visitors appropriately behave within the forest and locals respect, appreciate and take care of the environment they are part of.
Near the entrance to the Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve, lie Neltume and Puerto Fuy, two picturesque, cozy little towns with a rich tradition linked to the forest. Besides creating livelihoods and securing financial security, the Huilo Huilo Foundation interacts closely with the local community and encourages tourists to do the same.
Because the local communities are the spirit of Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve it encourages and supports local people wherever. Presently, more than 90% of its employees are local people from Neltume and Puerto Fuy supports them in becoming micro tourism service providers and manage different outdoors activities in the reserve. Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve also works closely with the local communities to promote local economic development by offering a variety of courses including entrepreneurship, handicraft, embroidery and wood carving workshops. Developing cultural practices into viable economic enterprises strongly encouraged community development and helped empower local people. With its knowledge of local culture, the Huilo Huilo Foundation is instrumental in this transformation.
The innovative aspect of the Huilo Huilo Project is that tourism has not been a goal in itself, it was implemented here as a way to conserve the unique environment of the reserve for the future generations. In order to make people aware of the importance of the environment Huilo Huilo have developed several ways of diffusing the environment with cultural practices.
The tourism facilities are in themselves a representation of natural and cultural heritage, displaying traditional handicraft and architecture. The Magic Mountain Lodge is located amidst the Rainforest, Nothofagus Hotel was built to live in the tops of the trees and the Canopy Village are little houses in the top of the trees. All these facilities show the uniqueness of the nature and highlight outstanding examples cultural practices.
The indigenous peoples have an important cultural heritage and relevant ancient myths, but there is very little documentation of this. As a result, Huilo Huilo Foundation is conducting a heritage rescue and is publishing three books. Additionally, the Foundation has developed a Cultural Trail, where in 25 sculptures a representation of these myths is made. Huilo Huilo has also built a museum featuring archeological objects, including more than 350 pieces of great historical value.
Significant efforts have been made to revive and protect cultural events and festivals to provide the community, tourists and with a platform to meet and exchange their ideas and experiences. The main aim behind the Huilo Huilo is to show the uniqueness of the nature and culture to all visitors such as they become ambassadors for environmental protection.
It is the timber industry that has provided progress and income for Neltume and Puerto Fuy over the past 50 years; unfortunately the activity have gradually became unprofitable, forcing companies to close saw mills, leading to widespread unemployment in the area.
Since the Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve was established the main economic activity has changed to sustainable tourism and today more than 80% of the people are dedicated to this economic activity. Many of these have become entrepreneurs and have developed different products for tourism. In the last 8 years, the number of visitors has grown from 5,000 to more than 40,000 yearly, making Huilo Huilo one of the most visited destinations in Chile. The income from tourism is massively influential in illustrating to the local people the value of sustaining the nature and the environment. The introduction of tourism has encouraged the establishment of supermarkets, bakeries, hostels, camping grounds and other services, not to mention handicrafts and works of art, especially made from wood. Through tourism the local people have been given a chance for economic restructuring. One of the most positive consequences of tourism has been the empowerment of women, who are now an important part of the family economy, whereas when timber industry dominated the woman had no job opportunities.