Feline Conservation Federation

FCF Supports Study of Guina in Chile

May, 2010 - FCF Awards $1,000 Conservation Grant to Dr. Gerardo Acosta-Jamett to study the ecology and threats to the guiña in Chile.
Dr Gerardo Acosta-Jamett reports:

     “What could be happening to the guiñas in the highly fragmented habitat of central Chile, where most Chilean guiñas reside? “What about the conservation of this wild cat in this highly fragmented area?” and “What is the scenario for this specie in the near future?”
    I decided to study indirectly the presence of this specie by following their foot-prints using scent stations. Although this technique has many technical difficulties, it was very useful for estimating relative abundance of the kodkod in fragmented native forests and pine plantations. In these studies I could find that kodkod inhabit almost exclusively native forests, but is also using exotic pine plantations, but always those that are close to native forests. However, this study was undertaken in a very limited area making it difficult to build a more general conclusion.
    There are still many gaps that need to be filled in order to produce better conservation strategies to protect this specie. One of the important gaps is about the genetics of this specie, since no studies have been done to assess the degree of isolation that the specie could have had in the past. Other initiatives have aimed to breed animals in captivity that have been rescued from illegal hunters, hoping to release their offspring in the near future. This work is lead exclusively by Fernando Vidal in Fauna Andina, who has received support from the FCF.
    The Feline Conservation Federation has kindly accepted to support our project entitled “Promoting the conservation of kodkod (Leopardus guigna) through a combination of ecological, epidemiological and sociological research in the fragmented forests of central Chile,” which is aimed to fill the gaps related to kodkod behavioural, ecological and infectious agents’ epidemiological responses in this highly fragmented landscape to promote its conservation.
    Through this project we will first fill the gaps in our understanding of the basic ecology of the kodkod, focusing on studying how this species is adapting to a human altered landscape. With this information, we will be able to develop a conservation strategy that includes both the private industry (mainly forestry) and the rural populations, in order to make them compatible with the persistence of this endangered felid. Distribution will be determined through the use of the scent-station method. Briefly, presence/absence and the relative abundance of kodkod, will be estimated by the scent-station method. Animals will be trapped, anaesthetized and radio-tracked by foot and car to determine habitat use in both continuous and fragmented forests.
    Questionnaire survey will be carried out across rural areas to assess the human attitudes toward this specie and the potential interaction between kodkod, poultry (one of its favorite prey!), and domestic cats. Blood and fecal samples taken from these animals will be analyzed to assess prevalence to selected pathogens. These will be related to landscape attributes to determine the risk factors for the positivity to each pathogen.   
    This is a very challenging project that we think will help to increase our knowledge of this beautiful and rare species. With gained information, we plan to make recommendations to promote its conservation hoping that governmental institutions and private companies could adopt these recommendations to effectively restore its populations.