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  Der Hintergrund

Dr. CARL ADOLF VOGEL

Address by Dr Carl Adolf Vogel, Consul General, Honorary Senator of the University of Shefield, in 1966, at the Inauguration of Parque Diana.

Anyone who has grown up between the Frankenwald and the Fichtelgebirge will carry with them a love of nature and of animals for the rest of their life. Still today, I remember with what excitement I looked forward every year to the prospect of a visit, together with my brother, to a friend of my father who lived in a forester's house at the foot of the Ochsenkopf. It seemed to me the greatest joy on earth to accompany this uncle on a dawn walk around his territory, and under his expert guidance to observe the red deer roaming free. I remember, too, how troubled I was when, as a ten year old boy during the First World War, I saw pictures of an oak wood on the Somme stripped bare by shell fire, by the question, "Where are the deer, where has all the wildlife gone, which used to live here?" I have never forgotten this.

This question has never weighed so heavily or so demandingly on any generation as on our own. We have not only lived through the terrible destruction of two wars, we have also experienced the hitherto unimaginable invasion of undisturbed forests through technical progress and the growth of industrialisation. Wildlife has been frightened and driven away; year by year it has lost more and more of its accustomed habitat. Where formerly the majestic red deer led his herd as unchallenged king across the tracks of immeasurable forests, today the hooting of cars and the shrill screech of factory sirens has replaced the belling of the stags to which the woodland dwellers were accustomed. An over-populated Europe has become too small. Man is usurping the space of the animal kingdom. But I came to see that there is nevertheless still room for the animal world on God's earth when in 1927 I took up a trainee position in an export house in Buenos Aires. There I experienced what were to a European the almost unimaginable open spaces of Argentina. In those years, together with a friend who shared my passion for nature and animals, and often in adventurous circumstances, I roamed across the country from the north to the south. I saw the huge herds of cattle and sheep which, though they numbered millions, were almost lost in the wide open spaces, whilst at the same time there was an almost shocking lack of wild animals to hunt. Even in the favoured hunting areas of the province of Neuquen, on the eastern edge of the mighty Andes, I heard complaints about the growing shortage of wildlife. There were indeed still deer of a size one seldom came to see in Europe - the Ciervos Colorados; but even these were not really indigenous to the country, but rather descendants of the red deer introduced, mostly from Hungary, around the turn of the century, and which had subsequently thrived. Just as there was already hardly any indigenous Argentine game left, so the erstwhile imported breeds, too, began to shrink. They were often inexpertly managed, there was a lack of European game-keeping experience, and stocks were plundered, at times through shooting only with trophy hunting in mind, and at other times through negligence in the control of poachers. One thing led to another, and the unmistakable signs of an accelerating depletion of stocks became apparent. Three decades passed before, in 1958, I returned once more to Argentina, which had always remained with me as an unforgettable second homeland. I had gained much experience in the mean time, and when I was offered a good price for a site in Rio Belgrano, which I had acquired cheaply at the time, but which had now become valuable as a result of the improvement and development of that part of the city, I decided to buy the Estancias of Lago Hermoso and Lago Meliquina. They lay in an area whose wide open spaces and favourable climate, together with the good pasture which they afforded, offered all the requirements for me to realise my old dream: to establish a generously laid out game reserve, with a research station incorporating the very latest expertise, for research and the scientific breeding of red deer and other game.

The acquisition of these Estancias, which I extended by the purchase of a further 80,000 ha, and which today are administered by Count Pallavicini, then allowed a fundamental reorganisation to make the cattle-raising and agricultural use profitable, and so establish the foundations for further facilities for research into nature, and the study of hunting.

When, in 1963, I created the Parque Diana zoological experimental station on the north bank of Lago Meliquina, a wild-life preserve of some 3,000 ha, I had already accumulated years of experience of the behaviour of enclosed animals at Schloss Fuschl in the Salzkammergut. Parque Diana now offered me every opportunity of putting this experience to use on a much greater scale, not only through new imports to refresh the blood lines and improve the quality of the existing livestock, but, far more, through the establishment of a station with strict scientific goals for research into the deer family, with constant exchanges with private and governmental research institutes in all countries, in order to gain fresh insights into the preservation and raising of wild animals, and impart new impulses to this work. In addition, this extensive area allowed me to import animals of sound stock not limited only to the different breeds of deer, but, and at the same time, to guarantee a familiar environment also for rare species and species threatened with extinction from my European homeland. However much these may incidentally be seen as an attraction for the growing tourist industry, it would be a fatal mistake to consider them from the standpoint of an adulteration of the native fauna. I see it much more as an imperative commandment of nature conservation: to populate with appropriate species those few spaces in today's world which are still available, and lack large game. Moreover, it is of great scientific interest to observe how these animals thrive and grow strong in an admittedly foreign, but characteristic habitat. The international attention attracted by my efforts over a few years, both in the press and in centres of wild animal research, demonstrates the importance which has already been ascribed to this work. Parque Diana has now been in existence for four years, but already species are living there which in their native habitat in Europe had become almost extinct in the wild. The proud Alpine ibex, which now survives only in a reserve in the north of Italy, the fleet-footed and elegant moufflon, which is under ever-increasing pressure in its native islands of Sardinia and Corsica, the European bison and the German wild boar, all of whose last survivors have now been counted and listed in an international breeds book, are now breeding in the conservation area of Parque Diana, enjoying the freedom of the pampas and the wooded mountains by the shore of Lago Meliquina. The first ibex fawns and moufflon lambs born there are already growing under the Argentine sun, in secure freedom, and very shortly European bison calves will be born there - the first European bison to be born in South America, into a world which offers them and their offspring all the space they need, while in their European habitat their ancestors no longer enjoy the necessary conditions for survival. All these animals were selected with great care and at considerable expense, in accordance with a precise plan. They have come principally from the Hellabrun wild-life park in Munich, which enjoys world-wide standing for its conservation of rare species and those which have become extinct in the wild. From Hellabrun have come the precious David's deer, which were exterminated in their native China at the end of the last century, and of which only a few specimens raised in European zoological gardens have been preserved. All the David's deer now living on the earth are descended from them. Now this rare and interesting breed has also found a new habitat in Parque Diana, where, preserved and protected, it can breed again. Very recently, I have set in hand work to enclose a further area with wire mesh fencing, so that still more varieties of animals can be introduced there, and given protection from their animal and human enemies. I envisage settling there interesting varieties of Argentine deer which are mostly known only by experts, and breeding from them: the graceful, but almost extinct Pudu, the rare Huemul with its forked antlers, which are hardly ever to be found today, the six-pointer Pampas deer and both the Corzuela brocket deer. In addition to these species, other, better known and happily still surviving Argentine creatures are also to be introduced, so that lovers of animals and nature from throughout the world can have the opportunity to get to know and admire these splendid examples of the fauna of Argentina at close hand, but nevertheless in conditions of relative freedom. Amongst these species are the Guanacos and Vicufias, and their domesticated descendants the Lama and Alpaca, the short eared Pampas hare, and the Greater Rhea. This aim in itself is enough to justify the construction of Parque Diana. But our concerns go still wider.

At my suggestion, the Hellabrun wild-life park had already for some years collected animals from the most famous sources of red deer to be found in Europe, from the German Alps, the Hungarian Carpathians, the Yugoslav plains, and the world renowned English red deer stud at Warnham Court, and brought them together as a breeding herd for Parque Diana. Thanks to the favourable living conditions in their new home they have settled in excellently, and should in due course bring new blood to the Argentine red deer imported from Europe more than 60 years ago. Finally, I would like to mention that I have been supported in my plans and endeavours by numerous experts, scientists and faithful collaborators. Above all, for much encouragement and advice in the foundation of Parque Diana, I am grateful to the creator and head of the Hellabrun wild-life park, Director Heinz Heck, who is celebrated as an internationally recognised animal breeder, particularly in the preservation of species of animals which were dying out or threatened by extinction. For the construction of the enclosures, I was able to obtain the assistance of Kalman Graf Tisza, who formerly owned large estates in Hungary, and is one of the most experienced researchers into deer in the world. As he now returns to his activities in the USA he carries with him my deep thanks for all the work he has done for Parque Diana. I extend my thanks equally warmly to Prince Reusz, Heinrich IIL, from Styria in Austria, who has supported my work with his wealth of experience of the behaviour of enclosed animals. My further thanks go to my brother, Dr Veit Vogel, for his tireless co-operation: he knew how to overcome the difficulties which cropped up in the selection and bringing together of the breeding lines - and to my secretaries Mrs Elisabeth Koch and Barbara Marx, for their often difficult triumphs in the complicated dealings with the authorities essential in such undertakings - and to the Directors of the Hellabrun wild-life park, Lutz Heck and Alfred Zoll.

Next, I must mention next Dr med. vet. Theelen, from Buenos Aires, who gave veterinary care to our animals on their first arrival from Europe and who will also look after them in their new home, also Director Hausmann and his team, who have been in charge of the administration in Buenos Aires of Parque Diana, and, not least, my thanks go to the authorities of the Argentine National Parks and the Ministry of Agriculture, who helped to surmount many initial obstacles. May I now express the hope that in the not too distant future this great animal conservation site will count among the most important tourist attractions in Argentina; it lies in a region whose unique beauty has been known for years in all parts of the world through the celebrated film, 'Dream Road of the World'. If this small piece of the earth at Lago Meliquina, which formerly was neither cultivated nor used for raising stock, but lay fallow, is now Parque Diana, and has simply become a little paradise for the animals who dwell there, I have all the reward I need for my efforts.

Ady Vogel

17.12.1906 - 16.09.1993