By Mauro Lucherini and Cintia Tellaeche, CLP alumni at the Andean Cat Alliance
After several years, our programme’s outreach activities about the plight of the threatened Andean cat have managed to capture the attention of governmental agencies in Argentina, with the species being declared a Natural Monument by the Argentine Province of Jujuy in April 2022.
The Natural Monument declaration is a significant breakthrough for Andean cat conservation in Jujuy, and in Argentina more broadly. In particular, it will allow us from now on to work jointly with governmental and non-governmental institutions to create a management plan for the conservation of the Andean cat in the province of Jujuy.
Although Jujuy is not the only Argentinian province where you can find the Andean cat, this declaration creates an example that we hope other governmental agencies will follow and opens the door to other outreach activities and collaborative opportunities that may improve the effectiveness of our conservation actions.
And we are already seeing these opportunities emerging. Not long after the declaration, our team at the Andean Cat Alliance was invited to give a presentation at a workshop organized by the provincial Biodiversity and Sustainable Development Secretary. The workshop involved the participation of authorities from the government and from a variety of institutions who discussed the Andean cat and its conservation.
Additionally, the Secretary of Culture of Jujuy province has decided to collaborate with us after they became aware of our CATcrafts programme – an initiative borne as a follow-up activity from our 2003 CLP-supported project, “The soul of the Andes”, and now forms a cross-border project of the Andean Cat Alliance involving six communities in the High Andes of Argentina, Chile, and Peru.
The CATcrafts programme is specifically aimed at creating a connection between wildlife conservation and improving livelihoods in the High Andes communities by building upon the ancestral traditions of craftsmanship to generate incomes for local women.
The Secretary of Culture of Jujuy province invited several women artisans who form part of our CATcrafts Programme to participate in a large craft fair and market that they organize in the province capital during the local winter holidays. This event has enabled us to increase the reach of our conservation messages through the voices of the women who handmade and sold their products, while generating additional revenues for their communities.
This is certainly a step forward for the Andean Cat Alliance in its efforts to conserve Andean cats in Argentina, mainly because it will facilitate our vision of a landscape where people and carnivores coexist peacefully. More pragmatically, we hope the declaration will help us obtain more governmental support for our activities and stop unsustainable development projects that may threaten the populations of Andean cats in the Argentine province of Jujuy.
About the authors
Three-time CLP award-winner, Mauro Lucherini, is dedicated to studying and conserving wild carnivores. He is a council member of both the Andean Cat Alliance and Wild Felid Research & Management Association, and serves in both IUCN Cat and Canid Specialist Groups. He is also a senior researcher at INBIOSUR (Instituto de Ciencias Biológicas y Biomédicas del Sur) at the Universidad Nacional del Sur and CONICET, Argentina.
CLP alumna Cintia Tellaeche is a biologist interested in carnivore ecology and conservation. Since 2007, she has been conducting research activities focused on the ecology of high Andean carnivores in northwestern Argentina. For her PhD and postdoctoral project, she focused on better understanding the factors affecting the occurrence of the Andean cat and the Pampas cat. She currently works at the Andean Cat Alliance where she focuses on the long-term conservation of Andean cat population and its habitat, working closely with rural communities.