Reserva Pumas del Paine, Torres del Paine, Chile
Rocky outcroppings at Reserva Pumas del Paine: a 17,000-acre private Puma reserve.
Pumas, Reserva Pumas del Paine, Torres del Paine, Chile.
Photography: Jorge Cardenas. Pumas of Torres del Paine, Chile: Photography Tours.
How we protect the Pumas and their habitat…
Arcana Mundi Expeditions now can offer Puma tours on the newly-established Reserva Pumas del Paine thanks to years of conservation talks and painstaking negotiations by our scientific advisor, Dr. Charles A. Munn, one of the world’s leading conservation biologists. To ensure the protection and the proper, sustainable appreciation of the Pumas at Torres del Paine, he has established a set of rules. By observing these rules under the guidance of your expert Puma tracker, you will be contributing to the conservation of the Pumas and their habitat. You will also be enhancing the Puma sightings for yourself and for your fellow guests.
Is the Puma is active or inactive?
In order to avoid disturbing a Puma, it is important to know whether it is active or inactive. Pumas generally are inactive from one hour to one-and-one-half hours after sunrise until one hour to one-half hour before sunset — so the time of day is a good first rule of thumb. Sometimes you find them active late in the morning or in the middle of the day or in the early or mid afternoon, but that is not common.
To decide if a Puma is active or inactive, look at its posture and eyes — if it is sitting up like the Sphinx, it is not truly inactive. To be ruled inactive, a Puma should be lying on its side and with its eyes closed, and it should hold this posture for more than 10 to15 minutes.
An active Puma is one with its eyes open and watching the world — looking around — it does not have to be moving or standing up to be considered active — it simply has to have its eyes open most of each minute, even if lying down while its eyes are open.
Rules for viewing a Puma
1. Maintain a minimum distance of 100 meters from a Puma when it is inactive.
2. Maintain a minimum distance of 50 meters from a Puma when it is active.
3. Maintain a minimum distance of 30 meters from a Puma in the extreme circumstance that it is a tame one, and all groups agree.
4. No groups move toward or away from a Puma unless all groups agree. If there is agreement, all groups should move at the same time and maintain the minimum distances stated above.
5. When approaching a Puma, each group should place shorter people in front and walk forward in a single file (rather than in a phalanx that could scare the Puma).
6. Groups must never occupy more than a single 45-degree section of the circle around a Puma, leaving the rest of the circle free. The 45-degree section should be behind or on the side of the Puma’s direction of travel —never in front. The idea is to make the cat feel relaxed and to allow it to choose the direction for its next move.
7. When less than 100 meters from a Puma, do not talk— only whisper. When at or beyond 100 meters, talk as quietly as possible and minimize noise by using radios within and between groups.
8. A minimum lens size of 500 mm or greater, such as 600 mm or 800 mm is required. To decide on your lens size, perform tests prior to the tour of how a 500 mm, 600 mm or 800 mm lens works to photograph a very large, sand-colored or brown dog.
9. Without exception, all guests must have good binoculars, which will allow them to enjoy Puma behavior. Long lenses are no substitute for binoculars. Good binoculars cost at least $300 and can go up to $2,000. They should be at least 7 power but not more than 10 power unless they have image stabilization built into them, which makes them quite a bit more expensive. We like 7 x 42 or 8 x 42 models of Zeiss, Swarovski or Leica, but there are some other perfectly acceptable $300 to $500 binoculars from other makers. 7 x 35 is not recommended. The binoculars should be in alignment, and you should learn how to use the diopter adjustment — have a serious birder show you how.
10. Outerwear — boots, hats, gloves, coats, trousers and rainwear — should always be of the muted, natural colors of the Patagonian outdoors — dull green and sand tones.
11. Each group must have its own tested rangefinder and use it often to check the distance to a Puma.
Conserving the habitat
12. When going out of view for a bathroom break, there must always be two people — one person to stand guard.
13. All toilet paper must be removed immediately by placing it in a small plastic bag provided by the operator. No toilet paper should be left in the field or buried.
14. Each guide must carry a trowel for people to dig holes to receive feces and to cover up the holes completely.
15. No smoking upwind from a Puma, group members, guides or other groups. Store all of your cigarette butts in your cigarette pack and dispose of them properly outside of the Reserva Pumas del Paine.
Your cooperation will contribute to the protection and the proper, sustainable appreciation
of the Pumas at Torres del Paine.
–Dr. Charles A. Munn, founder, Reserva Pumas del Paine
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