Tag: Photojournalism

Argentina’s Andean Cat Power Couple

Cintia Tellaeche and Juan Reppucci in the altiplano of the high Andes, northwestern Argentina
Cintia Tellaeche and Juan Reppucci in the altiplano of the high Andes, northwestern Argentina

We have already met Bolivia’s Andean Cat power couple and now it’s time to meet the Andean Cat power couple of Argentina, Cintia Tellaeche and Juan Reppucci. With eighteen years of combined field experience these two have led the research in understanding the ecology of the Andean Cat.

Cintia Tellaeche and Juan Reppucci determining the root up a mountain in the altiplano of the high Andes, northwestern Argentina
Cintia Tellaeche and Juan Reppucci determining the route up a mountain in the altiplano of the high Andes, northwestern Argentina
Juan Reppucci checking a camera trap in the altiplano of the high Andes, northwestern Argentina
Juan Reppucci checking a camera trap in the altiplano of the high Andes, northwestern Argentina

Using camera traps (see picture above) they were able to come up with the first density estimates of Andean Cats. They determined that in their study area, Andean Mountain Cats occurred at an average density of 0.095 individuals per square kilometers. Compare that that to the Pampas Cat, which live in the same area in the Andes, and who have a density of 0.76 individuals per square kilometer, and you realize exactly how rare the Andean cat really is. To put it into even simpler terms, Juan and Cintia calculated that there is one Andean Cat per every 10.50 square kilometers (that’s about the size of 500 city blocks). Talk about finding a needle in a haystack…..

However, they overcame this challenge in 2012, when they were one of the first people ever to collar Andean Cats. (They have collared five Andean Cats and six Pampas Cats in total!!)

Cintia Tellaeche trying to locate female Andean Cat through telemtry to download data, Andes, northwestern Argentina
Cintia Tellaeche trying to locate a female Andean Cat at over 14,000 feet through telemetry to download data, Andes, northwestern Argentina
Juan Reppucci looking really hardcare while trying to locate female Andean Cat through telemtry to download data, Andes, northwestern Argentina
Juan Reppucci looking really hardcore while trying to locate a female Andean Cat through telemetry to download data, Andes, northwestern Argentina

They are continuously trying to collar new cats (and re-collar older ones) to determine habitat use, activity patterns, and how those compare to the closely related Pampas Cat which lives in the same area as the Andean Cat. This work is in no way easy. Constantly running up and down 15,000 foot mountains not only leaves you breathless but can have more severe effects.

Cintia Tellaeche has a bloody nose from the effects of high altitude, northwestern Argentina
Cintia Tellaeche has a bloody nose from the effects of high altitude, northwestern Argentina — this probably would have slowed down and made most people turn around to get to lower altitudes but Cintia kept trucking on as if nothing happened. Saying that she is a strong person would be an understatement.
The nights in the mountains can easily get to - 20ºC (-4°F) below zero. Sure makes Cintia Tellaeche happy to have a good sleeping bag,
The nights in the mountains can easily get to – 20ºC (-4°F) below zero. Sure makes Cintia Tellaeche happy to have a good sleeping bag!

Cintia and Juan are gearing up now to go back into the field next year. These research expeditions (and they are expeditions) require not only the researchers never-ending commitment (which Juani and Cintia more than have),  but they also require money. Since they are too humble to ask for donations, I will ask for them. By donating to the Andean Cat Alliance you can directly help these amazing biologists uncover even more information about the Andean Cat. Their data will provide the baseline information needed to make proper conservation decisions on how to protect the Andean Cat.

On a personal note, I was able to spend two weeks with both Cintia and Juani in the field. Their work ethic is awe inspiring, their resilience breathtaking.

Juani and Cintia, I am so very honored to call you friends.

 

 

 

Arriving in Bolivia, home of the Andean Cat

Lama blanket in La Paz, Bolivia
Lama blanket in La Paz, Bolivia

This is my first trip to Bolivia, actually, this is my first tip to all of South America. After being here in La Paz, the capital city of Bolivia, for three days now, I already have the itch to go back, even though I haven’t even left yet.

View over the city from a gondola, La Paz, Bolivia
View over the city from a gondola, La Paz, Bolivia

La Paz lies at over 11,000 feet on the western slopes of the Andes. It sprawls over quite a large three dimensional area, with houses covering a large number of the incredibly steep hillsides. When I arrived at the airport I was immediately greeted by a swath of cab drivers offering me a ride. This is the one thing I needed to make sure, to get into an official taxi (so as not to possibly get robbed). My more than affordable hotel is right in the city center, with wifi to boot.

From here I get to explore the brilliantly colored textiles that are practically falling out of the permanent and pop-up shops lining the streets. I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of those colors.

Colorful alpaca fabrics, La Paz, Bolivia
Colorful alpaca fabrics, La Paz, Bolivia

Since I arrived just before Easter and with Bolivia being a mostly Catholic country I’ve been in for more than a treat. I have never had the privilege of witnessing a procession, but I have to admit it was quite moving to see.

Easter Procession, La Paz, Bolivia
Easter Procession, La Paz, Bolivia

Thousands of people were lining Santa Cruz Avenue, the main street in the city to watch as dedicated Catholics carried wooden statues on heavy wooden frames down the long street. The weight of these religious objects was more than apparent, but these cloaked men and women showed no sign of fatigue. Even more moving were the hundreds of people that followed the statues. When the road was blocked and the procession came to a standstill they at first waited patiently and then began to sing. I could feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up as their song grew in strength and unison.

Easter Procession, La Paz, Bolivia
Easter Procession, La Paz, Bolivia

If we could get that kind of following for the Andean Cat, we’d for sure be set. We probably can’t quite compete with the catholic church, but will do our best to win people over.

We are heading into the field tomorrow for over two weeks. Will report back after our return.

Cat in Water: An inspiration for Cat in Thin Air

Cat in Water Webpage -- Check it out!

Cat in Water Webpage — Check it out! 

Hi Everyone! My name is Sebastian Kennerknecht. I am a wildlife and conservation photographer and I focus my photography specifically on endangered species and wild cats. Saying that I am cat obsessed would be an understatement. I love everything about wild cats, which makes them disappearing a huge deal for me. So for the last seven years now I have been photographing wild cats all around the world, not only showing off their amazing beauty, but also their fascinating natural history, while also highlighting the threats they face, the research being done, and the conservation actions being taken.

Conservation for these cats is what I care about most, and I am willing to do what ever I can to increase their chances of survival. It is for that reason that I have long been a fan of the Cat in Water project. Cat in Water was created by Joanna Nasar and Morgan Heim (whom I got to meet a month ago, she is super awesome!) to help the endangered Fishing Cat. They were not only able to get pictures of the cat, but also they introduced more people to this amazing small cat species. That’s obviously completely awesome.

After talking to Mo about Cat in Thin Air, I realized the parallels and thought of them as kind of like sister projects. I too hope to introduce a lot more people to the Andean Mountain Cat by completing a set of conservation goals. This will include fully covering the story of the Andean Cat photographically, including its natural history, the research being done, showing the cat’s threats, and the conservation programs that many amazing people are leading for the cat.

CatinAirLogowebpage2
The official logo of the Cat in Thin Air project, created by my talented sister Teresa Kennerknecht.

That however, is just the beginning, because pictures can create change. The subsequent goals of the project will be to use the pictures to introduce and educate local and global people about the cat. We will also use the images to create a book to send to government officials to convince them to create more protected areas for the cat. And most importantly, we will use the pictures to help fund more research and more conservation to guarantee that many more people get to be as fascinated by the cat as I am. Are you interested in participating in the project? Awesome, feel free to email me!