Monday 4 September 2023

A day in the life of an aspiring and inspiring park ranger!

O: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what your job is?

I: My name is Ignacio and I am from Buenos Aires in Argentina and I studied for a park ranger career in the province of Misiones (close to Iguazu falls). My studies were a technical degree and after that I worked in some provincial parks, like in Patagonia and in Misiones. Now I work as a park guide in Posada Uguay in Esteros del Ibera.

O: What’s your favourite activity in your job at the moment?

I: At the moment, working as a guide, my favourite activity is the observation of animals, walking and looking for mammals or birds or reptiles and trying to find out where the animals are and where do they assemble. Everyday, working more or less in the same area and figuring out which animals are where and tracking them. This is very nice. But I also enjoy a lot the part of maintenance of the park – the paths, the bridges – this sort of thing.

O: And what is the worst part of your job? Something that you don’t like as much?

I: Before I answer this question, I need to tell you a bit about the difference between working as a park ranger, which is what I studied, and working as a guide, which is my current job. Both are obviously related, both are jobs in nature, but they entail a different level of responsibility. Working as a guide, I am responsible for people I am walking with and guiding and responsible for spotting things and offering them a nice time but it’s not such a legal thing. It’s more of a private job because there is a person who owns the posada and people hire me for some days or walks to show them the wildlife. But working as a park ranger, you work for the government – either the national government or the regional government. It’s a public job and you are the person in charge of a protected area which is normally very big in Argentina. For example, when I worked in Tierra del Fuego, I worked in the provincial reserve Corazon de la Isla and that reserve had 100000 hectares and we were only 5 rangers. And the days you were in charge of course you weren’t in charge of the whole reserve because you are one person at one particular place in time but you had much more responsibility, like working with a lot of people and vehicles and making sure everyone is doing the right thing. I am not saying this is the worst part of my job but the amount of responsibility you have is very different.

Also, the confrontation is a part of the park ranger job I don’t like a lot but it is a part of the job and I do it anyway because it’s something that I have to do.

O: You now work in Ibera but if you were to work in any national park in South America, where would it be?

I: That’s a great question. Now I work in Ibera and for many years it was my dream to work here. In the future, I would like to work in a place where there are mountains again. Like in Tierra del Fuego, there were loads of mountains, always walking and trekking and climbing a little bit and it’s something I miss a lot. I would like to go somewhere new in the Andean mountains so maybe in Patagonia or in Mendoza or somewhere there is walking and climbing. Probably in northern Patagonia because I’ve already worked in southern Patagonia and it was too cold so maybe try the northern part in the future.

O: What do you have to study to be a park ranger?

I: It’s a three-year course in Argentina. I studied in Misiones University in Argentina and I had to do subjects related to biology, zoology and botanical studies. I also had to do subjects related to administration and legal issues because, as I said, you are working for the government. I’ve had also practical subjects like mechanical subjects or first aid or fire management. So, the course was a mixture of those three things – practical, legal and ecological.

O: And out of these three categories of subjects, which one do you prefer?

I: I like them all. Perhaps the one I like to learn more about in the future is related to legal issues. Although many people think it’s the most boring subject, for me, it’s the one that makes the real difference; thinking of and studying about protected areas. For example, I talked about Tierra del Fuego – you have 100000 hectares of protected area and you have to think of what is this area protecting and what are the objectives of protection and how are you going to reach those objectives. What funding do you need to manage this and protect the area and reach those objectives? As a park ranger, you are often working in the field but it is important to think of the long term goals and how you are going to achieve these goals in a protected area. So, this is one of the most interesting things for me.

O: What is your favourite animal in Ibera?

I: I think it would have to be the maned wolf because it’s only seen here in Ibera. It’s very hard to see and I’ve had the luck of spotting it four times and it was always amazing. Very elegant animal, very fancy.

O: Wolves are my favourite animal as well. All wolves but obviously the maned wolf I would love to see because they have the longer legs to survive in the wetland (here in Ibera but also in the Pantanal where we are going later).

I: Yes, they really need to in order to survive in this environment. They almost have waterproof legs which is amazing. In South America, we don’t have many wolves. There is only this one. We mainly have foxes so in my head the maned wolf is like a giant fox. In fact, in the Guarani language (the local indigenous tribe), the word for wolf comes from fox and big.

O: I know there are hundreds of different species in Ibera but what is your favourite bird?

I: The one that I like the most is called the Federal in Spanish. In English, it is called the scarlet-headed blackbird and it has the colours of my favourite football team as well. It has black and red and it’s a very beautiful bird.

O: There are also a lot of caimans in Ibera. Would you say that caimans are deadly to humans?

I: No, not at all. I know there are people who are frightened of caimans but there are not dangerous for people. The only situation where caimans can be dangerous to humans is when females are nesting so they are protective. Caimans do not see humans as food to them because we are too big for them. They only eat preys smaller than their mouth; we are bigger than their mouth so they are not going to waste their valuable energy to bite us if they are not going to eat us. So, they are not dangerous. However, there is one caiman quite close to the posada that we saw yesterday. And one day, the caiman was quite close to the fence that I had to close because of the horses but he wouldn’t move. So, I put my leg close to him and nudge him to move, like ‘Come on, Mr Caiman, move, move, move’, and he opened his mouth and hissed at me and made a horrible sound. He is small but he would make himself respectful you know? He was not scared of me at all.

O: You said to us yesterday that the government has now advertised for 35 places for park ranges in different national parks in Argentina and that there are more than 500 applicants. Do you think you have a chance to be successful with your application?

I: Yes, I am confident that I will. There are different evaluations for those jobs, and I think I have a good CV because I have worked in different places and have done different types of jobs in national and regional parks so good experience overall. And I also have good training from a great university. So, I am confident and hopeful.

O: Thank you Ignacio. I am going to end with a question which I am sure it’s unlikely to ever happen to you but here it goes: if you ever had to fight a puma or a maned wolf, which would it be?

I: I would probably prefer to fight a maned wolf because I find pumas more aggressive. Actually, not exactly more aggressive. I would say that I am much more scared of the puma than of the maned wolf. In fact, I don’t feel scared being here in the night and knowing that there are maned wolves around. But, I’ve been in places where there are pumas and I feel uncomfortable. It’s not that pumas attack people but it happens more than with maned wolves.

O: Thank you so much. I hope you get the job as a park ranger, and I hope you enjoy it as well.

I: I am sure I will enjoy it. Of course, it all depends on where you are, and the other very important thing is the team you work with. For me, this is the most important thing in every job.

O: Thank you very much, Ignacio.



  1. What a great interview, Orestis! We are learning a lot from your blog.

  2. What a fantastic interview, Orestis, you asked really good questions and got so much information in the answers. I think you have the making of a brilliant journalist - and what with all your adventures, you're practically Tintin already. All you need now is a dog called Snowy :)