Livestock guardian dogs, a non-lethal strategy to improve coexistence between small livestock herders and wild carnivores in northern Patagonia, Argentina.

Maria Jose Bolgeri
Published: 13 February 2023
Last edited: 13 February 2023
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Summary

The expansion of livestock production over natural areas creates more opportunities for interaction between carnivores and livestock, increasing the chances of livestock predation by wild carnivores. This phenomena results in retaliatory killing of wild species, a great conservation challenge. 

This conflict between producers and carnivores makes coexistence difficult. However, the use of livestock guarding dogs (LGD) have proven to be an effective non-lethal method of deterring carnivores from grazing areas and reducing predation on livestock. Northern Patagonia, Argentina, is home to the southernmost population of the endangered Andean cat (Leopardus jacobita), native to South America. About 50% of its records are of individuals hunted in retaliation. We implemented the use of livestock guarding dogs in areas where the species is present, resulting in a hopeful alternative for its conservation and for expanding livestock production in a way where coexistence is possible.

Classifications

Region
South America
Scale of implementation
Subnational
Ecosystem
Agro-ecosystem
Grassland ecosystems
Rangeland / Pasture
Temperate grassland, savanna, shrubland
Theme
Adaptation
Erosion prevention
Indigenous people
Local actors
Not listed
Poaching and environmental crime
Science and research
Species management
Other theme
Sustainable livestock herding
Challenges
Desertification
Drought
Increasing temperatures
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Erosion
Ecosystem loss
Poaching
Lack of access to long-term funding
Changes in socio-cultural context
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Lack of technical capacity
Poor governance and participation
Sustainable development goals
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 4: Sustainable production and consumption
Target 12: Reducing risk of extinction
Business engagement approach
Direct engagement with associations

Location

-35.495160° -69.561230° | Chihuido, Loncoche, Carqueque, Palauco Norte, La Batra, Palauco Sur, Los Molles, Laguna Blanca, Tapadera, Los Leones y Veranada, Agua de Bayos, Casa de piedra, Caverna de las Brujas, Arroyo Chacaycó, Las Ovejas veranada, Loncopue
Malargüe, Mendoza

Challenges

Social

We expect to expand knowledge about LGD among producers, increasing confidence in their effectiveness, and to make the LGD more available by creating collaborations and training personnel from governmental agencies. We also expect to improve the perception of wild carnivores by producers.

Environmental

The main goal is to achieve positive coexistence between producers and wildlife, with a reduction in hunting, trapping or poisoning of wild carnivores in general, and Andean cats in particular. For the LGD technique to work there is a limit to herd size, so it reduces carrying capacity overload in native pastures, and also protects the soil from erosion. 

Economic

The LGD breeding centre needs to be sustained until it can be replicated, also, we expect to obtain greater support from relevant governmental agencies. 

We also improve the economic livelihood of livestock herders while benefiting wildlife conservation.

Beneficiaries

Small goat and sheep herders that raise extensive livestock with an average herd size of 350 animals. Usually, they lease the land on which their families have lived for generations, even when some are native descendants.

How do the building blocks interact?

Predation on livestock by wild carnivores generates significant economic and psychosocial costs to producers. In retaliation to eliminate the predators, rural dwellers use traps, poison and hunt with dogs, exerting a lethal control that is harmful to the target species, the biological community and a great threat to native species found at low densities, such as the Andean cat. In this scenario, livestock guardian dogs emerge as an opportunity to improve coexistence between producers and wild carnivores. Puppies of livestock guarding breeds need to be imprinted with livestock to generate family bonds and stimulate protective instincts. This requires a kennel that ensures animal welfare and facilitates the imprinting process between puppies and livestock. Also, it is of high importance and a substantial part of the project’s success, the work with the producers and that they are committed to the care and training of the guard puppy, as well as to the intention of generating a livestock farming that is friendly to the fauna and the environment.  This requires people to be accompanied and trained. It is also essential to monitor the effectiveness of the presence of the LGD by assessing predation before and after the presence of the guard dog.

Impacts

Social

A Livestock Guarding Dogs (LGD) breeding facility was created in north Patagonia, with specific breeds developed for livestock protection. In this facility puppies are being trained and tested for their effectiveness.

20 LGD have been bred, trained and distributed. 95% of which are successfully protecting herds of sheep and goats.

LGD are monitored for proper training and to ensure animal welfare. Close communication with the herders is maintained during 8 to 12 months after delivery to assist during the training process. 

100% of producers using LGD are satisfied with their performance.

A collaboration with the Southern Rural Society was developed that included training of an individual to start a new breeding centre. A puppy was delivered to start their breeding stock.

New producers are interested in participating in the project

Economic

90% reduction in annual depredation losses for producers using LGD that translates from an average of 68 livestock depredated per year to 7 livestock per year.

Producers with LGD went from losing USD 3,500 per year to just USD 450. This amount means a significant improvement in their household economy and quality of life.

Environmental

100% of producers have seen evidence of carnivore presence in the vicinity of the herd and pen, but there have not been any depredation events.

All producers with LGD committed not to kill wildcats, which benefits the scavenger assemblage.

Story

Maria Jose Bolgeri

Attacks on livestock by wild carnivores, mainly pumas (Puma concolor) and foxes (Lycalopex culpaeus), can be truly devastating for some families. Pumas can kill up to 40 animals in a single event, generating a lot of hostility from producers and a strong persecution and harassment towards all carnivore species for the real or potential damage. The consequences are alarming for the ecosystems, because the methods to kill carnivores are not selective (poison, traps, hunting) and not only affect the target species but also scavengers such as the Andean condor (Vultur gryphus) and species that are not harmful but are at high risk of extinction, such as the Andean cat (Leopardus jacobita). Livestock guarding dogs (LGD) live with the herds 24 hours a day, deterring carnivores from approaching and preventing the death of livestock, as well as retaliatory killing of predators and scavengers. Producers with LGD no longer use poison or traps because their dogs can be affected. They do not go out hunting predators because predation losses have been reduced by 87% thanks to the presence of the LGD. 

One farmer saw first-hand how his guard dog "Laika" chased off a puma. Like every morning in his summer pasture, Mr. Moyano sent the goats out to graze and of course Laika went out first, leading the way. Moyano prepared his mate, and followed the herd with his eyes, already far away on the slope of a hill. After a few minutes he watched the goats running to one side, while Laika barked and without second thoughts, got in the path of a puma that was chasing “her” goats. The puma ran away unharmed and Laika returned with her herd. Moyano tells that the puma was crouched on a rocky outcrop waiting for the goats to pass by, and it managed to kill one goat, but he is sure that the damage would have been a lot higher if it had not been for the heroic Laika. That day, Laika, not only saved several goats, she also saved the puma that would have surely been chased and killed. She also saved Andean cats, other carnivores, condors and other scavengers every day, because Moyano no longer uses traps or poison. He is proud of the work of his protective dog.

 

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Maria Jose Bolgeri Andean Cat Alliance