Ban on Activites that Disturb Wildlife
By the governing body of Torres del Paine National Park
“Best place for photographing Pumas.” –CNN Travel
Pumas, Reserva Pumas del Paine, Torres del Paine, Chile.
Photography: Jorge Cardenas. Pumas of Torres del Paine.
CONAF increases control of activities that disturb wildlife
in Torres del Paine National Park
–29 July 2015
Translated by Arcana Mundi Expeditions from the original announcement by CONAF in Spanish
During the current year, the offers for wildlife observation activities (especially of Pumas) in the Torres del Paine National Park have increased considerably. For that reason, this past April, the regional director of CONAF Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica [Corporación Nacional Forestal, the governing body of Chile’s national parks] sent an official letter to the representatives of various groups and associations of tour operators, reminding them that the so-called “photo safaris” are not authorized off the trails and roads of said nature reserve.
The communication also emphasized that the general regulations of the park (established in its Management Plan) indicate that visitors can travel only on the roads and trails explicitly allowed for public use, which are clearly marked on the official map, and exclusively during daylight hours. The letter was addressed to the directors of the Asociación de Hoteles y Servicios Turísticos Torres del Paine - HYST, Cámara de Turismo, Cámara de Turismo de Última Esperanza A.G. and Asociación de Guías Turísticos Locales de Puerto Natales.
Nevertheless, as they continue to promote various activities of this type in the park, CONAF this week initiated a call for them to engage in those activities outside the boundaries of the National Park or otherwise restrict their activities to the trails and roads, through a campaign on social networks intended to sensitize park visitors to the care and respect of the native fauna. (Facebook: Conaf Magallanes, Conaf-Parque Nacional Torres del Paine; Twitter: conafmagallanes).
The regional director of CONAF Magallanes, Alejandra Silva, explains that “thanks to the constant monitoring carried out by our park rangers on site, we noticed some changes in the behavior of the Pumas due to interaction with tourists. That is why we are insisting that it is completely prohibited to travel off the trails [and roads] as well as to walk at night. We are strengthening the communication with certain companies that do not respect this rule, that disturb the wildlife by closely approaching the animals or blinding them with flashlights.”
Alejandra Silva adds that “in recent years, we have registered an increase in the numbers of Pumas in the sectors that visitors frequent. We know, according to the literature, that proximity with humans and interaction with them from an early age can modify the Pumas normal patterns of behavior and interaction with humans, thus disrupting the life cycle of the species, be it in the way they feed or protect their cubs.”
Conservation and animal welfare
The superintendent of the Torres del Paine National Park, Federico Hechenleitner, stresses that “these measures aim to protect our natural heritage, but also to maintain the security and proper conduct of those who visit us.” He notes that “reinforcing our actions to protect this species could even promote the development of new economic activities in the area bordering the park, where there have already arisen offers to observe Pumas on cattle ranches.”
The principal objective of a national park is the conservation of its natural resources. In this context, one of the positive changes that the territory of today’s park has experienced is the recovery of its native wildlife and ecosystems. “Since CONAF has maintained a permanent presence there, not only have the populations of Pumas, condors, huemules, guanacos, foxes and ñandúes, among other species, increased, but the behavior of animals encountering visitors has changed, and we want that to continue. Strengthening these measures of protection is one more step in our desire for conservation, and continues the work of previous years”, he adds.
The population of Pumas in Torres del Paine National Park was estimated in the decade of the 90s to be about 50 animals. “We estimate that in recent years this population has remained stable, but to know with greater certainty, a few weeks ago we began a new ecological study of the populations of flora and fauna in a bounded area where the greatest number of Pumas are concentrated”, reports Hechenleitner.
Nicolas Soto, regional manager for the Protección de Recursos Naturales Renovables del Servicio Agrícola y Ganadero (SAG) ), explains that although neither the law nor the hunting regulations contain specific references that apply to the observation of protected wildlife species, it is understood that all activity that may involve disturbances could threaten the conservation of said species. “As a service, we agree with the precautionary decision being applied by CONAF, in not authorizing this practice [wildlife searches] in areas off the trails and roads. For that reason, we join this call to be prudent, as much for assuring personal safety as for guaranteeing animal well-being and the conservation of biodiversity”.
Finally, the superintendent of Torres del Paine National Park emphasizes that “our objective is to prevent uncontrolled tourism activities within the park. We want to increase the awareness and enforcement of these rules because often the photo safaris involve harassment and mistreatment of the animals, especially when families or females who have just given birth to their cubs are sighted. We want our wildlife to be maintained in its undisturbed condition.”
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