Habitat loss, alteration and fragmentation represent severe threats to biodiversity globally. Wild cats, which generally require large areas over which to forage, are particularly affected by fragmentation and human-felid conflicts. Whereas considerable research has been directed towards large carnivores, smaller more cryptic species have received comparatively little attention. The kodkod or güiña (Leopardus guigna) is the smallest of the neotropical cats and has one of the most restricted distributions known for felids occupying a narrow strip within south-central Chile and Argentina, the core area of indigenous Mapuche communities. The kodkod is classified as vulnerable by IUCN. Principal threats are habitat loss due to agricultural land use and retribution killing after attacks on poultry. The general aim of the project is to explore how projected future social and economic development of the fragmented and ethnically heterogeneous Araucanía region will affect habitat availability for the kodkod on private lands. An auto-ecological study will use radio-telemetry for the first time in the northern pre-Andean distribution range to assess habitat use, home range and activity patterns. An ethno-ecological study will provide understanding of the human environment context in which the kodkod lives. Through quantitative and qualitative interviews with Mapuche people and other socio-cultural groups of landowners knowledge and attitudes will be explored. Linking the ecological, ethnic and social information with geographic information, future land use scenarios will be modelled. This allows strategies to be identified for mitigating conflicts between the development process and habitat quality, and for the role of the kodkod as a cultural keystone species for use in conservation education. Training will be achieved in interdisciplinary aspects of biodiversity conservation (ethnoecology) and its methodologies (telemetry, Geographical Information Systems).
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