Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma
by Darcy Pattison; illus by Kitty Harvill
32 pages; ages 6-10
Mims House, 2014
In October, 2012 a puma cub was born in Brazil. That's not unusual because pumas, also known as mountain lions, range across North, Central and South America. They live in a variety of habitats, from desert to swamp to forest. This particular puma lived in a forested place close enough to a city that he could see the skyscrapers every day. But while he and his mom could see the city, nobody could see them. The pumas moved between forest and human habitation silently; unseen.
Until one night. The mother, hunting for food, revisited a chicken coop she’d raided a few weeks earlier. But this time the farmer was ready for her – with a trap. Unfortunately, the mother was injured and died, leaving the cub to fend for himself until, a month later, scientists finally rescued him.
When Darcy Pattison first heard about the orphaned puma cub, she knew there was a story… but where? Part of that story, she knew, would have to be about the impact urbanization has on wildlife.
Darcy: Now more people live in urban areas than rural. That changes the question from “how can we save this species” to one of how we can live in a way that we share the world so that both humans and wild things can survive. Some city planners try to create green spaces and corridors that link forests to each other so that wild populations can move from one place to another.
Archimedes: What intrigued you so much about this particular story?
Darcy: The fact that pumas live so close to people and yet they are invisible. When I looked at a “Google Earth” map of where the chicken coop is, it’s within a mile or so of a large city. The pumas hunt over wide areas, so they wander through human territory. But no one has documented their existence. It’s similar to the cougar (mountain lion) sightings in the northeast and mid-south. People swear they’ve seen “big cats” but there’s no documented trace of them. Their secrecy – and their adaptability – are a big part of why I like this story.
Archimedes: What can people do to make it easier for pumas and other wildlife to survive in and around expanding urban areas?
Darcy: In Brazil the government established policy that requires landowners and farmers to set aside a certain amount of land for wildlife. But there’s more to it than just putting aside acreage. When deciding to create wildlife corridors – swaths of land that animals can use to travel from a forest on one side of a city to a forest on the other – land-use planners need to think about where animals normally go. Most animals follow rivers and creeks, so working those into the corridor plans makes sense. Road crossings are the most dangerous. As we become more urban, this problem increases. The question we need to ask ourselves is: How do we make room for the animals that we share the planet with?
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