From the Field: María José Bolgeri and tech to alleviate Puma-Human conflict

In our new From the Field series, we're speaking with WILDLABS members to discover how they use technology in their work. Through these interviews we will be showcasing the variety of technologies our members are working with, uncovering the lessons they've learnt along the way, and hearing how they'd like to see their tools develop in the future. 

In this first interview, we're speaking with María José Bolgeri who has been involved in the ongoing discussion in our Human Wildlife Conflict Group about tools for deterring predators. We asked María to share her experience about how technology is helping alleviate puma-human conflict in Argentina. 

Date published: 2017/03/22

Q: What challenge has this technology helped you overcome?

En Patagonia Argentina se vive un conflicto entre pequeños productores caprinos y los carnívoros silvestres. El puma (Puma concolor) es el principal responsable de los ataques al ganado y las pérdidas económicas que esto significa para los productores. Pumas, zorros (Lycalopex griseus), gatos silvestres más pequeños como el montes (Leopardus geoffroyi) y el amenazado gato andino (Leopardus jacobita) son perseguidos en represalia por los productores.

Desde hace varios años estamos trabajando para disminuir este conflicto en el norte de la Patagonia Argentina en las cercanías de la Reserva La Payunia (Provincia de Mendoza) y más recientemente en el Parque Nacional Laguna Blanca (Provincia de Neuquén). Hemos probado los perros protectores de ganado que, cuando son bien entrenados, dieron excelentes resultados protegiendo a las cabras. Y hace tres años estamos experimentando con el uso de disuasivos visuales, probando las luces niteguard solar® para espantar a los carnívoros de los corrales o sitios donde las cabras pasan la noche. La percepción de la gente hacia esta herramienta es muy positiva, los productores se encuentran  contentos con el funcionamiento y, aunque los datos comparativos con sitios de control son limitados, parecerían ser efectivos cuando se cambia luego de un tiempo por otro disuasivo.

In Patagonia, Argentina there is a conflict between small goat producers and wild carnivores. The puma (Puma concolor) is primarily responsible for the attacks on livestock and the consequent economic losses for producers. Pumas, foxes (Lycalopex griseus), smaller wild cats like the mounts (Leopardus geoffroyi) and the threatened Andean cat (Leopardus jacobita) face persecution by the producers in retaliation.

For several years, we have been working to reduce this conflict in northern Patagonia, Argentina, near the La Payunia Reserve (Province of Mendoza) and more recently in the Laguna Blanca National Park (Province of Neuquén). We have tested livestock protection dogs that, when well trained, gave excellent results protecting the goats. Three years ago we began experimenting with the use of visual deterrents, testing the niteguard solar® lights to ward off the carnivores in the pens or places where goats spend the night. The perception of the people towards this tool is very positive, the producers are happy with the performance and, although the comparative data with control sites are limited, they would seem to be effective when interchanged after a time with another deterrent.

Q: How did you first get the idea to use this technology for your work?

En el año 2014, realicé una capacitación sobre el uso de cámaras trampas organizado por AGA (Alianza Gato Andino) y dictado por Rodney Jackson (Snow Leopard Conservancy). Allí debíamos presentar el trabajo que desarrollábamos, conté sobre el proyecto con perros protectores  de ganado que hacíamos desde WCS (Programa de la Estepa Patagónica y Andes del Sur). Amablemente, Jackson me sugirió que me contactara con la gente de niteguard ®. Hice el contacto y luego  gracias a unas lámparas donadas y a subsidios de CLP y Disney Conservation pudimos comenzar las pruebas en Patagonia.

In 2014, I attended training on the use of camera traps organized by AGA (Cat Andean Alliance) and taught by Rodney Jackson (Snow Leopard Conservancy). As part of the workshop, I shared the project I’d been working in partnership with WCS (Program of the Patagonian Steppe and South Andes) on with livestock protection dogs. Kindly, Jackson suggested that I contact the people of niteguard ®. I made the contact and then thanks to some donated lamps and funding from CLP and Disney Conservation we were able begin the tests in Patagonia.

Q: Do you use specific criteria to select the technology or model you use?

Tuvimos en cuenta que sean tecnologías amigables con el ambiente (que no usen baterías que pudieran ser desechadas al suelo y contaminar) y que fueran económicas porque contábamos con poco presupuesto.  El resto sería evaluado en el transcurso de la experiencia.

We took into account that they were environmentally-friendly technologies (that do not use batteries that could be thrown to the ground and contaminate it) and that they were economic because our budget was limited. The rest would be evaluated in the course of the experience.

 

Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced using this technology in your location?

Aquí los productores están muy enojados con los carnívoros y no dan mucho crédito a los investigadores que trabajamos para conservarlos. Entonces, el mayor reto fue convencer a los productores de probar la herramienta.

In the area I work, the producers are very angry with the carnivores and do not give much credit to the researchers who work to preserve them. The biggest challenge was to convince the producers to try the tool.

Q: What are some of the shortcomings of the technology you’re using for your work that you’d like to see addressed?

Cuando se utilizan disuasivos visuales para carnívoros si o si hay que cambiarlos luego de un período de tiempo para evitar el acostumbramiento del animal. Nosotros intercambiamos las luces por banderines de color rojo y plateado que hacen ruido con el viento y brilla con alguna luz nocturna. Los banderines no nos dieron resultado, necesitamos otro disuasivos que podamos intercambiar con las luces, como puede ser algo que haga  ruidos (se usan radios encendidas), otro sistema de  prendido y apagado de luces o sistemas que funcionen con sensores de movimiento. Si todo eso pudiera estar en un solo equipo que funcione con baterías recargables solares ería genial!!

When visual deterrents are used for carnivores they need to be changed after a period of time to avoid the animals becoming too accustomed to the deterrent. We experimented exchanging the lights for red and silver pennants that make noise with the wind and shine with some night light. Unfortunately, the pennants did not give us results, so therefore we need another deterrent that we can exchange with the lights. This could be something that makes noises (potentially using radios), another system to turn lights on and off, or systems that work with motion sensors. If all that could be in a single piece of equipment that works with rechargeable solar batteries it would be great!!

Q: Have there been any unexpected positives for using this technology? What are the most surprising findings that the technology has helped you to discover?

Los productores están contentos con el funcionamiento de las luces, ellos mismos dicen que funcionan. La mayoría no ha sufrido daño cuando son colocadas en el lugar donde las cabras duermen en la noche y todos, hoy,  hablan sobre el problema con el puma con menos odio hacia el animal. Eso es muy positivo. Por otro lado, el costo de esta herramienta es muy económica y accesible.

The producers are happy with the operation of the lights, they say they work. Most have not suffered any damage when they are placed where the goats sleep at night and encouragingly, they all now talk about the problem with the puma with less hatred towards the animal. That is very positive. The cost of this tool is also very economical and accessible.

Q: What advice would you give other groups such as yours that might be thinking about using this technology in their work? 

Les recomiendo no complementar las luces niteguardian ® con disuasivos como banderines. Se que en otros proyectos utilizan radios encendidas y luces foxlight que podrían servir para intercambiar (pensando en el bajo costo de niteguardian®).

I recommend not supplementing the niteguardian ® lights with deterrents like pennants. I know that other projects use lighted radios and foxlight predator deterrents (as is being discussed in our Human-Wildlife Conflict Group) that could be used in conjunction with the niteguardian ®, with similar low costs.

 

About the Author 

María José Bolgeri has a doctorate in Biology, and has worked studying ecological factors that condition the seasonal migration of guanacos and its effects on the patterns of predation by pumas in the Payunia reserve, Mendoza province, Argentina. Since 2005, María has worked with WCS in the Patagonian and Andean Stepe Program in a variety of conservation projects. These have included working with herders to improve livelihoods and reduce their impact on wildlife and habitats, as well as evaluating deterrents for carnivores for decrease the predation in cattle and avoid retaliatory killing of predators.

Are you interested in tools for alleviating Human-Carnivore conflict? María and other WILDLABS members are sharing their experiences deploying a variety of livestock protection tools over in the community. Join the thread in our Human-Wildlife Conflict group to find out more and add your experience to the discussion. 

Continue the discussion… Foxlights predator deterrant