The soul of the Andes: promoting the long term conservation of the Andean mountain cat

Mauro Lucherini

The Andean cat is one of the worlds most endangered and least known felids. It exclusively lives in the remote high-altitude deserts (Puna) of the Andes. The present follow-up project designed a long-term conservation strategy of the Andean Mountain cat based on a landscape-scale approach aiming to expand the value and efficacy of local initiatives and research. We mainly aim to improve our understanding of the factors affecting the present status of the Andean cat populations and simultaneously reduce the known/suspected causes of decline of the Andean cat populations. Estimates of its relative abundance will be made and its main habitat/food requirements will be studied. A range of community-based activities with a strong educational component will aim to reduce Andean cat mortality due to hunting and the decrease of their natural prey, improve the image of carnivores among local people, and empower the local community to participate in the development of a long term conservation plan for the Andean cat. These actions, and our work with regional and national media, will enable us to identify the Andean cat as the Soul of the Andes, and thus use it as a focal species for the conservation of the Puna.

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