Conservation in Action: An Interview with Sergio Avila-Villegas

Why is the study of big cats especially important in evaluating the Sky Islands?

Cougar3The presence of big cats in the Sky Islands is proof of the health status of the region: having large, wide-ranging predators in the region means that their resources and requirements are covered, such as prey populations to feed upon, corridors to connect their territories, cover to hide, and pairs to mate. The presence of big cats is testament to the existence of many levels in the trophic cascades: prey populations (herbivores), grass and water (habitat for herbivores and carnivores) and the corridors to move about.

How are you able to study the cats since they are so elusive?

iStock_000011363499SmallThe study of elusive animals is better done by identification of sign, such as tracks, scat, prey remains or kills, and other sign animals leave behind – it’s like speaking a different language Also, with the aid of remote cameras we are able to set monitoring stations that record wildlife species living in one area.

What kinds of questions will your studies be trying to answer for CONANP for their proposal to protect Sierra de Huérfana?

What is the status of mammals in Sierra Huérfana: Confirming the presence of jaguars and other land mammals in the area, mostly through identification of animals sign: tracks, scat, prey remains, etc.

What is the importance of these species in the area: understanding how land mammals use the land, how the partition resources, territories, and what other areas are used with Sierra Huérfana as part of a corridor.

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