By Corinne Letendre
Have you ever wondered what types of animals live in your backyard? Imagine you could video record all the animals visiting your garden… Well, this is exactly what camera traps allow you to do! These cameras are equipped with a motion sensor and help capture video and photographic footage of wild animals without disturbing them.
Last year, we wanted to learn more about our neighboring wildlife and put up a series of hidden camera traps along a creek at the GAAP Nature Discovery Center near Valvidia, Chile. At first, all we could see were roaming dogs, domestic cats, lots of rats and occasional birds. However, things quickly got more interesting when we started obtaining video clips from a fox, a mouse-sized marsupial called “monito del monte”, South America’s smallest wild cat known as the “kodkod” or “güiña”, and eventually, right there in front of us… a PUMA!
You can imagine our excitement when we discovered that we had been sharing our backyard with such a large diversity of domestic and wild animals! However, this was also very concerning as domestic animals can transmit diseases and kill wildlife. But what was even more alarming was seeing wild animals in such close proximity to humans.
Species like the kodkod are particularly vulnerable to the increasing loss and fragmentation of their habitat. Sadly, the Valdivian forest is currently experiencing a drastic increase in logging, agriculture, tourism, and urbanization. How will this affect the kodkod? It is still unclear, but we fear that upcoming developments will threaten the existence of these amazing cats. At the moment, there is no one monitoring the kodkod in this area and therefore no community projects to protect their habitats.
This is why we had to do something about it!
We started to do some research, met with local partners, and came up with ideas for protecting the wildlife and their habitat. We think that the creek at the GAAP Nature Discovery Center may serve as an important corridor for wild cats, allowing them to roam from one fragmented area to another as they look for a mate and new food sources. However, more corridors need to be identified and protected. This is why we are working to launch a Wild Cat Neighborhood Monitoring Group with local landowners to identify additional corridors on their private land. We are also planning to establish partnerships with local farmers to help develop healthier environmental and land management practices.