The Threats to the Andean Cat
The threats to the survival of this rare wildcat are set out in tabular form for ease of reference below:
|Question regarding threat||Answer|
|Top threat||Hunting despite being banned in Chile (a crime) and protected (Peru, Bolivia and Argentina).|
|Lesser threat||Prey reduction, habitat loss and fragmentation (this is in part the cause of the prey reduction of course).|
|Reason for hunting||(1) Considered sacred animal. Stuffed Andean cats used in harvest festivals (2) People consider the Andean Cat a predator of small livestock (Argentina, Chile and Peru) (3) For traditional medicine and food (c.f. Cat Meat)|
|Other reason for killing of this cat||Shepherd’s dogs|
|How many people hunt small cats?||69% of people|
|Possible cause of fragmentation||Mountain Chinchilla, prey of Andean Cat hunted to extinction|
|Reason for habitat destruction||Mining, extraction for fuel, cattle grazing|
As mentioned above the Andean cat is protected in the countries concerned to little effect, it seems, due to poor or little enforcement of legislation. This is a problem worldwide due to lack of commitment from the authorities. I say that the IUCN Red List should take this into account (i.e. project ahead not just assess the present, which seems to be the case). This wild cat is listed in CITES Appendix I (see IUCN Red List for cats to see overlap between Appendix I and Red List).
The Andean Cat Conservation Action Plan list six objectives in conservation:
- Determine distribution and threat (I presume this means more precisely and currently).
- Research further ecology and biology.
- Educate to minimize negative human impact.
- Improve management of conservation and develop initiatives.
- Promote implementation of conservation.
- Continuously evaluate.
I find these (summarized by me) objectives worthy but ask whether they will be implemented properly. I have doubts but as mentioned the best man to manage conservation is actively involved, Jim Sanderson, and I would think he is quite possibly down there right now (July 2009) working on the conservation center. The Andean cat is the most endangered wild cat in the Americas.
Update 7th June 2009:
Jim Sanderson Ph.D. is recognised as one of the top small wildcat researchers and conservationist in the world and he is establishing an Andean Cat Conservation Center at San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. He has makes these points about this cat:
(1) It is the only endangered cat in the Americas with an estimated fewer than 2,000 existing (at Feb 2009). (2) With local help (Andean Cat Alliance) he has identified where there are significant populations of this cat. (3) There are five threats to this cat’s survival in the wild.
(a) Many people of the area believe that this cat carries supernatural powers which can be harnessed for the benefit of a person if the cat is killed and it is then decorated and displayed. This wild cat is easy to kill because it is not afraid of people (b) In many areas eating the prey of this wild cat, viscachas, is common. Viscachas are the primary source of food for this wildcat (c) Mining activity destroys habitat (d) Exotic species that have been introduced threaten this wildcat (e) The feeding areas of viscachas are threatened by global warming as the glaciers that maintain these areas are melting.
Jim Sanderson is working with local people to mitigate these threats.
Unsurprisingly, there are no videos of this cat so to give a flavor of life in the Andes Mountains here is a video. The survival of this cat depends on the people:
My Thanks to http://www.iucnredlist.org.