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Cats of South America

Wildlife research carried out within the framework of the Pumas on the Edge project

Puma

What are our aims?

This project aims to produce much-needed information on the carnivore community occurring in the Espinal bushlands of central Argentina. In particular we aim to tackle the conflicts between livestock and puma Puma concolor, as well as identify and develop new tools to mitigate them, because the conflicts are threatening the survival of the local puma population. Also, we carry out public awareness campaigns with the aim of increasing the acceptance of carnivores by the society, and start a longer term process to design a sustainable management plan of carnivore populations in the region.

MapWhere do we work?
The study area is located in the Southwest of Buenos Aires province; more specifically corresponds to the area of two counties, Villarino and Patagones. This region covers over 25,000 km2 and represents the last relict of the Argentine Espinal in the province. This is a transitional area between grasslands, located in the center of Buenos Aires and Monte woodland habitats, found to the west and to the south. Topography is mostly plain. Climate is temperate arid, with mean precipitation of 350‐500 mm/year.

The region has experienced a marked transformation during the last decades due to the increase of agriculture and ranching activities, which are the most important regional sources of income. This fragmentation process has turned the original landscape into a mosaic of croplands and pastures with residual patches of original vegetation. From 1975 to 2002 logging decreased the percentage of woodland areas from 65% to 37%, and this trend continues. Because the proportion of the Argentine Espinal that is legally protected is extremely low (less than 0.1%), we are working on private ranches.

What have we done?

Since the beginning of 2013, we have carried out two different field activities: photo-trapping and interviewing local people.

PampasCat

Photo-trapping:

The objective of using this technique is to monitor the presence of different species of carnivores, including the puma, in the Espinal and use these data to construct models that allow us to understand how habitat fragmentation and other human activities influence carnivore distribution.

In order to select the sampling sites, random points were generated with a minimum distance of 6 km among them. Then, in each of those points, 5 cameras were installed with an approximate distance of 1.5 km among traps. Cameras worked continuously during 25 days in each site. From March to May we set a total of 12 monitoring sites with 5 cameras each one (total of cameras used: 30).

This protocol had already been applied the previous year and so far we have a completed a total capture effort of 7054 trap-days and collected 196 photos of Geoffroy’s cats Leopardus geoffroyi, 8 of Pampas cats L. colocolo, 45 of pumas, 547 of Pampas foxes Pseudalopex gymnocercus, 75 of Molina’s hog-nosed skunks Conepats chinga and 2 of lesser grisons Galictis cuja.

Geoffroys

These proportions represent the following percentages of detection in the cameras:

Lesser Grisson Galictis cuja 0.82
Geoffroy’s Cat Leopardus geoffroyi 36.9
Pampas Cat Leopardus colocolo 2.9
Puma Puma concolor 11.5
Molina’s Hog-nosed Skunk Conepatus chinga 16.8
Pampas Fox Pseudalopex gymnocercus 44.7

These data show that the Pampas fox, the most adaptable carnivore of this guild, is the most widespread carnivore of this guild, but also that pumas and –especially– Geoffroy’s cats are still relatively common throughout the region. The Pampas cat would be quite rare but not as rare as the jaguarundi Puma yagouaroundi, for which we have been able to record only verbal reports of presence by a few local ranchers.

PampasFox

Interviews with local people:

This method was applied with the primary objective of identifying and quantifying the damage/impact produced by the carnivores in the region. Also, this technique allowed us to identify hunted pumas and foxes by the stakeholders and estimate, approximately, the rate of killed animals per year.

The interviews were done from June to September. During this survey, 2 students of the International Master Degree program of Sherbrooke University (Canada) collaborated with our team and, the data collected were used for their Master’s final work. In total we carried out 59 interviews in all the study area.

The preliminary results show that rural people think that the carnivores represent the biggest reason for economic losses.

fig4a

Athough pumas and foxes were the carnivore species most blamed for livestock losses by local ranchers, many of them had suffered no attacks during the previous year.

Additionally, the information about the husbandry practices adopted by ranchers suggests that their improvement might be a way to mitigate the carnivore-livestock conflicts in the region.

Fig6a

Unfortunately, the most commonly cited measure to effectively reduce the losses from predation was predator control aiming to reduce carnivore population numbers, whereas changes in husbandry practices were considered much less effective and only a small number of ranchers thought that economic compensation by the government was a solution.

Fig7a

We took advantage of the interviews to collect puma’s genetic samples. Muscle or skin samples were collected to understand the population dynamics and to collaborate with an international genetic project (International Barcode of Life – IBOL) that aims to obtain the genetic barcode of all the species in the world.

We also started gathering information from livestock predation sites, which are important to create a spatial model that describes the environmental or anthropogenic factors favoring puma’s predation on livestock and to identify the selection of areas for mitigation process.

In conclusion, all the information collected supports our initial hypothesis that the Espinal region of Buenos Aires province still hosts a diverse and widespread community of carnivores, but also the perceptions that the situation is deteriorating rapidly because of the joint effect of retaliatory killing (related to an intolerant attitude by local ranchers) and habitat loss (related to logging to make space for agriculture). The top predator of this region, the puma, with its relatively low reproduction rates and wide space requirements, may not be able to survive these threats.

deadpumas

The Future

Until now, we have been doing the hard work collecting data in the field, and now need to start extracting information in order to understand the dynamics of conflicts in our region.

Our long-term objective for the next steps is to make all that information available and to propose mitigation actions to decrease the level of conflict between human and carnivores in our study region not only to the local people but also to the governmental agencies which are the responsible for taking decisions. In order to achieve this goal we are planning to carry out participatory workshops with ranchers and people from government in 2014. However, to be able to provide reliable and sound information, we have to continue our field survey focused on determining the magnitude of the conflicts and the factors –both ecological and anthropogenic– affecting them.

mauro

Team members

Dr. Mauro Lucherini – Dra. Estela Maris Luengos Vidal
Dr. Diego Castillo – Lic. Nicolás Caruso – Lic. María de las Mercedes Guerisoli

Grupo de Ecología Comportamental de Mamíferos (GECM),
Universidad Nacional del Sur, Argentina

US Jaguarundi Receives Recovery Roadmap

i-93wm9s6-MThe Gulf Coast jaguarundi, a cat native to Mexico and the thornscrub habitat of southern Texas, today received a long-overdue “recovery plan,” a document outlining necessary steps to bring the species back from the brink of extinction.

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published the plan late yesterday, the result of a settlement agreement with WildEarth Guardians. Despite listing the Gulf Coast jaguarundi as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act in 1976, the Service failed to designate critical habitat or write a recovery plan for the critically imperiled cat. Guardians challenged the Service’s failure to produce a recovery plan specific to the species in 2009. If the recovery plan is funded and followed, the Service predicts the species could be removed from the list of imperiled species in 2050.

“This recovery plan is a long overdue and important step to safeguarding rapidly disappearing jaguarundi habitat,” said Taylor Jones, Endangered Species Advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “These beautiful and rare cats waited nearly forty years for a path to recovery. We call on the Service to now fully and effectively implement the recovery plan and prevent this species’ extinction.”

The Gulf Coast jaguarundi is a subspecies of jaguarundi that historically ranged from the Lower Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas into the eastern portion of Mexico. The last confirmed sighting of this subspecies in the U.S. was in April of 1986. Most jaguarundi habitat in the U.S. is already lost to agriculture or urban development, including over 95% of thornscrub habitat in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Jaguarundis need dense vegetation such as thornscrub to hunt prey, mainly small rodents, reptiles, and birds. Preservation of remaining habitat will also help other rare species, including the imperiled ocelot, that share jaguarundi habitat.

Development along the U.S./Mexico border also poses threats to the jaguarundi and many other border species. Barriers along the border destroy and fragment habitat, reduce access to habitat and resources, including food and water, and isolate wildlife populations. Approximately 70 miles of fence have been proposed in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, 56 miles of which are already constructed.

The recovery plan emphasizes identifying, protecting, restoring, and connecting potential habitat in southern Texas. The Service also intends to study the feasibility of reintroducing jaguarundi in Texas, as well as learn more about these elusive cats through population and habitat surveys.

Press Release: Wild Earth Guardians

[Note: The jaguarundi species is classed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List. They range from the southern USA down through Central and South America to Argentina.]

 

Buy More Time for Small Wild Cats

Wild cats are in danger of disappearing all over the world. Habitat loss, persecution, poaching, illegal fur, food and pet trades, increased roads and other human interference in their habitats are taking their toll. So how do scientists and conservationists save wild cats?

The first step is to learn about their lives in the native habitat. Where are the cats located? What kind of habitat do they need? What do they eat? How large is the population? These and many other questions must be answered before suitable areas can be set aside and conservation plans put in motion.

Your donations help field researchers purchase radio collars, cameras and other equipment to study the small wild cats. Join our growing list of small wild cat heroes. Please donate today.

100% of donations received go directly to wild cats

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One species that has been helped through research made possible by your support is the Andean Cat.

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 endangered cats

 

Andean Cats Leopardus jacobita are one of the most beautiful of all wild cats. The fur is mainly ash grey with brown-yellowish blotches that are distributed as vertical lines at both sides of the body, giving the appearance of continuous stripes. Extremely thick, plush fur of silvery grey is very fine and soft, up to 5 cm long on the back, and the underside is pale with dark spots. Prominent dark grey bars also run across the chest and forelegs. The backs of the large, rounded ears are dark grey, and the nose is black.  Learn more

Andean Cat Alliance News

Dear friends of AGA:

After a southern summer break, we gladly send our newsletter to let you know about the activities that AGA members are developing. We offer fresh news and of follow-up actions initiated in the last year or before. We hope you enjoy them and thank you again for letting us to get into your screens.

M. Lilian Villalba
AGA General Coordinator

andean cat alliance

Linking Research To Action

By: Rocío Palacios
andean cat habitat

Everything evolves, and conservation is not an exception. During past years there has been a trend inside the Alliance that went from research oriented projects to conservation exclusive proposals. Both kinds of projects have strengths and weaknesses, but there is one common aspect between them: we need both for properly conserving the Andean cat and its landscape.

Now in the Alliance most projects look for a way to combine some needed research and conservation. We believe that this combined approach of research and action is more than a necessity, is the only real way to make conservation effective in this globalized and accelerated world.

We need research, we need to know what the species need, to be able to conserve them better. We also urgently require effective conservation actions, and that means it is not possible to wait until research provides results, while we wait we can start applying some mitigation actions. The perfect combination is to use one to help the other: while doing conservation also doing research and vice versa. This is the only way we can preserve our wild cats, while discovering their long kept secrets.

New Record of Andean Cat Expansion 650 km to the South in Chile!

By: Agustín Iriarte, Cristian Sepúlveda, Nicolas Lagos

Employees of the mining company Caserones managed to photograph and film a specimen of Andean cat at 120 km from the city of Copiapó. This arid area is located at an elevation of 2200 m asl in the Andes of Atacama Region that is characterized by a Mediterranean climate. This record extends the distribution range of the Andean cat, moving its border 650 km to the south from the southernmost known record in the Puritama canyon, in the north of San Pedro de Atacama. Additionally, this is also the lowest altitude record for Chile, because all other previous records were at more than 3600 m asl. This information was kindly provided by Yamal Suez (Caserones chief of the environmental area) and the person in charge of natural resources of Atacama SAG (Jose Andaur).

andean cat
 

Collared Cats!

By: Juan Reppucci

Thirty two days after her capture we obtain a camera trap photo of Vichacha, a female Andean cat, wearing her radiocollar. The picture was taken at around 4.5 kilometers from the capture spot, in the top part of a big canyon where we also obtain pictures of rheas, vicuñas and foxes. Several months before her capture we had obtained many pictures of Vichacha with her kitten in the capture spot. Recognize her was easy, using the coat pattern as we usually do, but also the characteristics dreadlocks that she has on her back close to the tail. Close to the border and in one of the highest points of the study area we obtain a picture of Alexander Supertramp, a male Pampas cat, after five days of his capture, at around four kilometers away. Camera traps, in addition to radio-collars, are important tools for monitoring these cats.

andean cat with radio collar

 

Conservation and Sustainable Management of Habitats, Peru

By: Dina Farfán

This project is the result of a research conducted on the Andean Cat and its habitat since 2003 in Cusco Region. In 2008 we coordinated with six communities located at the south east of the Ausangate glacier, to create conservation areas in their territories, taking the Andean cat and wetlands as the main conservation objectives.

As a working strategy we developed an integral program of conservation, sustainable management, education and capacity building; in the last year, to encourage the participation of the communities, we worked for developing projects that provide direct economic benefits. After a comprehensive assessment, we have supported the development of a Plan of Tourism and Recreation Use, and other tools to enable communities to implement an ecotourism program, which is characterized for being managed by them and with high environmental and social responsibility. Currently we continue to support them, so that the Peruvian State recognizes the zone as a Chilca Private Conservation Area. In addition to the contributions that AGA and WCN have given ro the development of this project, we also had technical and financial support from ACEMAA and APTAE.

andean cat conservation andean cat habitat

 

Global Actions to Guarantee a Future to the Andean Cat

By: Maria José Merino y Alejandra Torrez
andean cat education

The project Andean Cat Global Action (ACGA) is a cross-border initiative, where the four range countries of the Andean cat co-operate to consolidate the profile of this cat as a flagship species across its whole distribution range and, consequently, to strengthen the conservation of biodiversity in the regions where it occurs.

To achieve these goals, ACGA aims to develop a novel global strategy for education and community participation based on an itinerant exhibition and other new awareness materials that will be distributed widely, both to the local communities and the general public. In the first year, we devoted a large effort to agree the best strategies and design the education material that was planned. We produced a common poster, a brochure promoting AGA work and, banners used in the itinerant exhibition that is the core awareness tool. We delivered environmental education activities to a total of 236 children and 29 teachers in cooperation with a number of partner organizations. Additionally, we are working among local communities, to collect stories on the Andean cat that we will use for a booklet to be published soon.

Trails of Inquiry: A Methodology for Conservation Education

By: Daniela Ulloa
conservation education

AGA and the Center for Studies in Theoretical and Applied Biology-BIOTA, are running the project “Trails of inquiry: reflecting on our environment,” in the Municipal Botanical Garden Ema-Verde, Municipal Zoo “Vesty Pakos” and the National Natural History Museum in the city of La Paz, Bolivia.

In December 2012, we began with the training of 25 volunteers in a methodology called “Trails of inquiry” through a workshop provided by Dr. Peter Feinsinger and Iralys Ventosa and a group of collaborators from Argentina and Bolivia. This methodology consists of routes that use elements of the environment in order that a guide, a sign or a brochure induce the visitor to perform “Cycles of inquiry” of firsthand, brief but complete, about specified elements in the immediate environment. The “Cycle of Inquiry” is based on the practice of the scientific method but in simplified form and involves three basic steps: question, action and reflection.

In this pilot initiative, both volunteers and visitors discover educational experiences to interact with each other, deal with new challenges and different ways of interpreting the environment. The Trails of inquiry can be applied in different contexts; certainly, these experiences will be a guide for planning educational strategies for the conservation of the Andean cat in its environment.

SHOWCASTING OUR MEMBERS: Rocío Palacios

By: Susan Walker
andean cat researcher

Rocio Palacios is passionate about cats! This passion has led her to dedicate her career to the protection and study of Argentina’s wild felines, especially the Andean cat. As an undergraduate in biology, Rocío carried out research on Patagonia’s cats and canids. Even before graduating she began working for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Patagonian Steppe program, forming part of the team that discovered the Andean cat in San Juan, Argentina, in 2003.

After leaving WCS to do graduate work, she developed a program to train park rangers in monitoring and conservation of Patagonian carnivores, and printed a manual that has been widely distributed to rangers and local people. She has led workshops based on this material in different provinces, the national parks, and private reserves.

Active since 2005 in the Andean Cat Alliance, she has served in several administrative capacities, including that of general coordinator for two years. Her current doctoral research on the Andean cat in northern Patagonia will provide crucial input to develop conservation plans for the southernmost population of the species.

Andean Cat Alliance (Alianza Gato Andino) website

 

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