16 February 2011 - A new conservation instrument was concluded between Argentina and Chile to conserve the South Andean Huemul (Hippocamelus bisulcus), the only large herbivore to inhabit sub-Antarctic Patagonia. The national animal of Chile and “natural monument” in Argentina migrates across the border region between the two countries. Argentina and Chile signed the agreement, in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding, which is part of the countries’ Specific Protocol on the Conservation of Wildlife, in the margins of the 20th Ibero-American Summit on 4 December 2010. The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), which listed the species on Appendix I, is the depositary of the agreement.
As small and fragmented populations continue to decline and numerous threats persist, the endangered South Andean Huemul might face extinction. Fewer than 1500 animals are estimated to remain in the wild. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the species original global population is estimated to have suffered reductions of 99% in size and more than 50% in distribution range.
Poaching is a major threat, which adds to mortality due to natural predation by pumas, foxes and domestic dogs. Livestock grazing and water management for agricultural purposes accelerate land conversion. On top of this expanding infrastructure due to logging and mining encroaches on the species’ habitat. Therefore any loss among small, fragmented groups of deer can become crucial. In addition, human settlements, unregulated tourism and diseases transmitted from cattle put further pressure on the species, which prevents small groups from recovering.
The agreement aims to address illegal hunting, habitat degradation and the introduction of diseases. The two countries are expected to develop a bi-national action plan in 2011 to promote the exchange of scientific, technical and legal information as well as training of professional staff and park rangers to coordinate conservation measures. Research needs to be promoted to better understand the ecology and biology of the species as well as factors preventing the recovery of individual groups. Monitoring will be enhanced to collect more data on distribution, abundance and threats. Educational activities and media campaigns will raise awareness about the Huemul´s poor conservation status.
The Memorandum of Understanding on the conservation of the South Andean Huemul has a duration of 3 years and will be automatically renewed unless one signatory withdraws from it.