The Andean cat is one of the rarest and least-known cats in the world. It lives high in the harsh climates of the Andes Mountains and Patagonia steppe, where food is scarce and weather conditions are extreme. This small, sturdy cat is difficult to find – there have been only ten recorded sightings in 25 years – and even harder to study.
The Andean Cat Alliance, which operates across Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru, the countries where the cat lives, has risen to this challenge. Members of the Alliance devote their time and energy to saving an animal that most of them may never be able to see. Habitat loss and habitat degradation due to mining, water extraction, unregulated tourism, and inappropriate livestock farming and agricultural practices threaten the cat, as does hunting. These factors are further exacerbated by the effects of climate change. The Alliance is working to secure the future of Andean cats and their habitat through programs that directly address these immediate threats, while also helping communities improve their quality of life.
The Alliance was the first to capture and radio collar an Andean cat and uses its increasing knowledge of the cat for conservation education and the growth of protected areas.
Andes Mountains & Patagonia
"Most AGA staff members have never laid eyes on an Andean cat—it is so scarce and elusive that it is almost a ghost. The Andean cat represents all that is wild in the Andes, and by conserving it we are preserving one of earth's last wild places, the expansive high-altitude Andean mountain habitat."
- Rocio Palacios
A Unique Conservation Approach
Research projects focus on establishing the presence of the Andean cat in previously unexplored areas, using camera trapping and systematic scat collection, and learning about the cat’s activities. Researchers also evaluate the environmental and human variables that affect the distribution of Andean cats.
Once the Andean cat’s presence has been established in a region, Andean Cat Alliance members promote the creation and strong management of protected areas and corridors for the cat. The Alliance works with governments and communities to conserve these areas for Andean cat habitat. They also support the development of sustainable land usage practices.
The Alliance works with communities to help members learn about the cat and participate in conservation. Festivals celebrate the Andean cat, while workshops allow community members to suggest alternatives to harmful practices, which include land usage that threaten the cat’s habitat. Workshops that encourage the change of land usage benefit the Andean cat, other wildlife, and community members.
camera traps installed in the field, monitoring Andean cat populations
women from local communities participated in Andean cat handicraft workshops
Rocio has had an affinity with cats since she was a young child growing up in Argentina. She spent her childhood fostering stray rescues. When she was twelve she hid a particularly smelly looking kitten named Fleas from her parents in her bedroom. As an adult, her studies in biology led her to many roles within the conservation space, particularly with studies regarding different carnivore species. These roles included working for the Argentinean National Parks Administration, conducting biological research for universities, and working with conservation NGOs.
She began working with the Andean Cat Alliance in 2003 and in 2015 was elected to serve as the Co-General Coordinator of the Alliance, where she works closely with AGA's Argentinean, Chilean, Bolivian, and Peruvian teams. AGA's research, conservation, and education programs aim to have long lasting impactful effects on Andean cat conservation.
Rocio feels lucky, because she saw a glimpse of an Andean cat in the wild... when she was eight months pregnant and conducting a one month field expedition with her team. Her tireless and passionate advocacy for the Andean cat gives us hope for this species' future.
How You Can Help
$200 buys one camera trap, an essential tool to monitor the elusive Andean cat.
$1,000 enables the Alliance to hold a three-day community workshop for 40 people to learn about Andean cats and how to protect them.
A donation of any amount can contribute to the purchase of vehicles that allow research teams to reach the remote areas inhabited by Andean cats.
When you designate your donation to a specific species, 100% of your donation will go directly to the field to support this species.
Congratulations to the 2017 Disney Conservation Hero Award winners! We are honored to have representatives nominated by WCN featured in this outstanding list of conservation heroes.