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Tuesday, August 7 • 9:00am - 9:20am
SYMPOSIA-04: A New Paradigm for Huemul Conservation

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AUTHORS: Jo Anne M. Smith-Flueck, Laboratorio de Teriogenología, “Dr. Héctor H. Morello” Facultad Ciencias Agrarias-Universidad Nacional del Comahue; Werner T. Flueck, Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET); V. Martin Izquierdo, Department of Conservation and Environmental Education, Argentine National Park Administration; Valerius Geist, Faculty of Environmental Design, the University of Calgary; Miguel Escobar, Foundación Shoonem, Comodoro Rivadavia; Gabriel Bauer, Department of Conservation and Environmental Education, Argentine National Park Administration

ABSTRACT: The Patagonian huemul (Hippocamelus bisulcus), an endangered deer native only to Chile and Argentina, has less than 1500 individuals remaining, with an approximate third of these in Argentina. Of the estimated 101 populations left, none on the eastern side of the Andes (Argentina) are expanding, and 60% of these are known to have fewer than 10-15 animals. Although the huemul has been declared a natural monument, and as such receives the highest protection allowed under Argentine law, the conservation strategies of the past three decades have failed as shown by the lack of recovery of any of the approximate 50 subpopulations in Argentina [1]. In this presentation, we will review the history of huemul conservation and the philosophy behind the decline, which determined which strategies were emphasized over the past three decades. Now, recent studies, revealing new perspectives on the situation, are taking the attention away from actual proximate to ultimate causes [2,3,4]. Cattle, for one, have been blamed since 1992 as one of the predominant factors behind the decline of the huemul numbers [5]. Yet, removal of cattle from various areas hasn’t shown any population recovery response of huemul. To the contrary, a cattle removal program in one Argentine national park resulted in a 17.6% decrease of that huemul subpopulation over a 5 yr period, which coincided with a 19.2% decrease in the densities of fecal pellets along established transects [6]. Moreover, cattle ranching has been compatible with a huemul population on a southern Argentine ranch since the early 1900s. Attention needs to be directed towards other diagnoses, especially given other evidence. Live and dead specimens of huemul from the east and west of the Andes consistently reveal clinical signs of osteopathologies in at least six populations and a shortened lifespan (0 adult age of 3.1 in one Argentine population, n=20) [2] that are accompanied by trace mineral deficiencies (i.e., selenium and iodine) in the soils of the upper ranges [7,8] where huemul currently remain year round as resident deer. We will describe how anthropogenic activities resulted in the loss of migrational behavior to historic winter ranges, which ultimately would then be responsible for the current situation. With this knowledge, conservation efforts are now shifting to focus on bringing huemul back to their former ranges, while keeping in mind the basic nutritional requirements for trace minerals. Meanwhile, opinions are polarized in the huemul conservation community today, which seriously hinder progress. As in all paradigm shifts, resistance is expected. We will discuss means to minimize these roadblocks and the progress thus far achieved, including an overview of recent advances in huemul research and conservation efforts in Argentina.

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Tuesday August 7, 2018 9:00am - 9:20am MDT
Assembly Hall B

Attendees (3)