Linking education and research for the conservation of the Andean mountain cat
The Andean Mountain cat only lives in the high-altitude dry areas of the Andes of Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. This project arose from 3 previous surveys carried out by a Team leaded by M. Lucherini and supported by the Zoological Society "La Torbiera" and the National Park Agency (APN). The results of this preliminary project and those reported by the other researchers attending the "First International Workshop on the Andean Mountain Cat" suggested that fragmentation, low local densities and decreasing prey populations appear to be pushing the species towards the edge of extinction. This project will contribute to know the Andean cat actual distribution, understand the causes of its critical status, start designing long-term conservation plans, and ensure the involvement of local communities in them. Through the interaction with local communities, we want to learn about their traditional use of natural resources, understand their social and cultural bases, the importance of human contribution to its critical status and how the social development needs can conciliate with wildlife conservation. Short, but intensive, field surveys will test the information gathered through these interviews on the cat possible distribution and contribute to our understanding not only of the geographical distribution of the Andean cat, but also on the ecological factors affecting it and the conservation of the Puna.