WCS Argentina

Livelihoods Patagonian Steppe

The main livelihood of rural people in the landscape is raising goats for personal consumption and to sell the meat of kids. High densities of goats over many decades have resulted in habitat degradation, and productivity of herds is very low, due to traditional, hands-off management. The rebound of the puma in the region has resulted in large predation losses for some herders, and the effects of global climate change are evident, as the area has become drier and hotter over the last few years. Herders have lost up to 90% of their goats, and many can no longer make a living from their traditional husbandry.

Guanacos and other native herbivores suffer from degradation of their habitat by goats, competition for scarce resources, and the possibility of disease transmission from goats. Herders often persecute guanacos and chase them from their pastures and waterholes. Carnivores are killed indiscriminately to protect goats from predation.  

To address the conflicts with livestock within the corridor, WCS works with local goat herders to reduce intensity of range use by livestock. We are assisting goat herders to adjust stocking rates to match range carrying capacity, control loss to predators and disease, and produce alternative livestock products, such as cashmere from goats.  This initiative is being carried out in collaboration with the Departments of Protected Areas, Rural Development, and Livestock of Neuquén, the Department of Renewable Natural Resources of Mendoza,and the National Agricultural Agency (INTA).

One of the main reasons herders keep so many goats is because productivity is low and mortality high due to traditional husbandry practices that no longer function.  We are working with herders through out the landscape on projects to demonstrate the benefits of having smaller and more productive stocks, which will simultaneously benefit wildlife and habitats, as well as improving livelihoods of herders.  Thus, in addition to our objectives for wildlife conservation, we have the objective of increasing incomes of herders while improving livestock husbandry practices. 

Mixed-breed livestock guarding dogs WCS has expanded and evaluated a program to use local, mixed-breed dogs as livestock guarding dogs. Worldwide there areas many as 40 breeds of dogs that have been selectively bred for size and temperament appropriate for protecting sheep and goats from predators. These dogs are mostly large-bodied, and are expensive to obtain and maintain for the small-scale herders of the Andean Patagonia Steppe Landscape. Therefore, WCS has promoted the use of local dogs, raised with goats, to protect herds from predation by pumas, culpeos, and Andean cats. Our initial pilot study of these dogs found them to be as efficient as purebred dogs, with 100% of users having reduced predation and 89% reporting that they are hunting predators less.

Sustainable goat husbandry Historically herders have done little active management of goats, and have maintained as many as they could on their lands at the time. Simple changes such as managing the sex and age ratios ofthe herds, supplementing the most valuable females and providing them shelter when they are giving birth, and corralling herds at night can greatly improve the health of the herd and the range, as well as the herders’ incomes, while reducing threats to native herbivores and carnivores. WCS provides the only extension service available to herders in critical wildlife areas.

Wildlife Friendly© Patagonian Green Cashmere

The local breed of goat, the Neuquén criollo,developed from goats of European stock brought to Patagoniain the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Raised almost exclusively for their meat,a few years ago the national agricultural agency realized that the breed produces a valuable undercoat of cashmere. This is the only South American breed that produces cashmere. WCS helped the Grupo Costa del Rio Colorado toget Wildlife Friendly

©

certification of their cashmere, in exchange for a commitment to manage their goat herds sustainably and to not kill small cats, including the endangered Andean cat.

Contact

WCS Argentina
Amenabar 1595 piso 2 oficina 19, C1426AKC CABA

Key Staff

Carolina Marull
Livelihoods Coordinator
Martin Funes
Director of Andean Patagonian Steppe Landscape
All Livelihoods Patagonian Steppe Staff >>

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