Truth be told, the situation surrounding Patagonia’s pumas reached a critical point last year. These majestic big cats were being hunted to such an extent that sightings in the area were rare.
Creating a Puma Foundation is something the Awasi team had been dreaming of for some time: we could not sit by and watch the puma population fall prey to hunters (they are only protected within the boundaries of Torres del Paine National Park).
Therefore, in September 2017 the Awasi Puma Foundation was born, and after just the first season we are seeing results beyond our wildest hopes.
What is the Awasi Puma Foundation?
We expanded our private reserve from 600 to 4,500 hectares (1,400 to 11,000 acres), renting a sheep farming estancia and transforming it into a private reserve that will serve to protect the puma population in and around Torres del Paine National Park.
We are driven to provide safe areas for the puma. As well as renting this huge estancia from a sheep farmer, our guides and biologosts patrol the area to check for poachers. In just 8 months, we have managed to prevent 5 cases of hunters targetting puma.
We started out with five different hidden cameras placed in different spots across the Awasi private reserve, increasing the number to 15 in March 2018 when we imported more from USA, along with binoculars.
“The idea with 15 hidden cameras is to be able to cover more areas and increase the chances of capturing images of puma and other animals in the reserve,” says Awasi Patagonia Head Guide Cristian Asun, who is heading up the Awasi Puma Foundation.
These are still early days but we are already seeing marvelous results: we can now identity at least 6 different pumas which are inhabiting our reserve, one dominant male which has settled here and which, in turn, has attracted more pumas who are crossing the river and remaining in our reserve, rather than just use it as a corridor.
A huge amount of guanacos graze on the grasslands in the valley below our lodge now that there are no sheep in the area (the estancia livestock has been moved to other pastures). The presence of the guanaco clearly helps the pumas stay put, and they are slowly beginning to feel secure. Other native species have begun to strive aswell, and sightings of fauna such as armadillos, rheas and other very rare types of smaller felines have increased.
“The sightings from biologists, guides and guests have been short but good,” says Cristian, “we are aiming for sightings of about 30 minutes to be able to interpret the puma behavior and make photographic records.”
How to achieve longer sightings? It simply takes time as the puma become accustomed to human presence and learn to trust that they are not under threat here.
Can I get involved?
YES! We need your help to continue, improve and expand the Awasi Puma Foundation.
There is no other preservation work of this kind in the area, and Patagonia’s pumas need protection. Please let us know if you would like to support our work: several guests have become sponsors, opting to leave a donation in support of the work we are doing.
Will I be able to see puma?
The aim with our foundation is to reverse Patagonia’s declining puma population and ensure visitors can experience these big cats and work with us to ensure their safebeing.
In terms of seeing big cats, we recommend early morning outings for puma spotting as this is when the big cats are most active. You can plan these outings with your private guide when staying with us (at Awasi all excursions are tailor made). Sightings have even taken place from the comfort of guest’s bed – here’s a photo taken by one of our guests from their villa.
This is the first of a series of blogs detailing the results of the Awasi Puma Foundation, our work protecting Patagonia’s puma population. If you would like to get involved please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org