Preserving the Soul of the Andes – Conservation of the Andean Mountain Cat, Argentina

The Andean Mountain cat is estimated at only 2,500 mature breeding individuals, with a declining trend due to loss of prey base and persecution.

Endemic to the high altitude Andes, the Andean Mountain cat is a good flagship species for conservation of this vast and vulnerable ecoregion. However, little is known about the Andean cat, making data collection a pre-requisite for conservation.

Since 1998, Mauro Lucherini, a leading researcher on the Andean cat from the Universidad Nacional del Sur, Argentina, has led 12 expeditions to the high Andes covering approximately 89,500 km2 to learn more about the cats’ fragmented distribution and the threats to the species.

Since Mauro began his work raising awareness with the local community, an improvement in the perception of carnivores, and decrease in conflict between cats and people has been seen. A multinational Andean Cat Alliance (AGA) to support Andean cat conservation has been formed, and has contributed to improving our knowledge of the species and future conservation priorities.

The aim of this project is to expand the work with local stakeholders to begin widespread community education and train locals in cat monitoring. Argentinan field biologists and local villagers are being trained and involved in tracking cats and monitoring their environment.

Central to the project is a further exploration of human-cat conflict, which the team seeks to understand and address, and the delivery of high quality data on Andean cat ecological requirements and population densities to inform an Andean Cat Conservation Plan.

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