New documentary: Livestock guardian dogs of Patagonia

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Cochrane’s own filmmaker Jimmy Valdés Baigorria just finished a new 22-minute documentary on livestock guardian dogs, featuring Conservacion Patagonica’s innovative program. Watch the video! With spectacular footage of the future Patagonia National Park’s wildlife and landscapes, the piece interviews numerous ranchers and small producers in the region who have adopted the use of livestock guardian dogs.
Jimmy and the Conservacion Patagonica team have hosted launch events for the film in Coyhaique and Cochrane, both great successes.  Read on for an interview with Jimmy about the creation of this film.
When did you start working with Conservacion Patagonica?
I started out filming the Ruta de Huemul (learn more HERE and HERE) and the flora and fauna of Valle Chacabuco.  The place holds many memories for me because I’ve lived there with my family since I was a child. My father was a horse tamer, cowboy and puma tracker in Valle Chacabuco. Now I take photographs of the flora and fauna and realize that this is where I began.
Photo: Jimmy Valdés Baigorria
Where did the idea to make a film about the sheepdogs come from?
Cristian Saucedo, Paula Herrera and I realized that a documentary about the guard dogs could be an important tool for bringing attention to a certain angle of CP’s work: caring for over 1,200 sheep in the Puesto Baño sector of the park.  After securing funds, I was able to make the film.  In my opinion, it will allow ranchers in the region to understand the purpose of the sheepdog program.
Can you explain the process of making this film?
About a year ago, I began the process of documenting the dogs in their environment. I planned an overnight with the dogs so I could personally watch and record Brisa and Puelche, as well as the livestock workers, at work. I spent time with Hernán Chacon, who is a seasoned rancher from the area, and Rene Rivera.  Both men have spent their lives taking care of sheep and have been able to adapt to this new method of using livestock guardian dogs.
In addition, we wanted to gather information about the Guild Members’ Association (A.G.) of the Baker River and their collaboration with the Institute of Farming Investigation (INIA). They have been interviewing people from Cochrane with varying degrees of experience in working with the sheep dogs given to them by the INIA. Some of them had a more difficult time than others getting used to working with the dogs. These individuals included Corina Garcia from Lago Cochrane, Lucy Gomez from San Lorenzo, Cesar Reyes from Maiten and Gilberto Chacano from A.G. Baker River.
Photo: Jimmy Valdés Baigorria
Why can this documentary serve as an important tool?
I think that the small [sheep] producers of the Cochrane community and others in the region live constantly alongside predators that harm their herds, making it very difficult to care for their sheep. The native animals are simply in their natural habitat, acting based on their natural instinct. Because the law protects the predators, it’s a permanent conflict.
When my father first came to Valle Chacabuco, he worked for years tracking and killing pumas and foxes in order to take care of the Valle Chacabuco ranch, just like Arcilio Sepulveda did, who now works for Conservacion Patagonica. In those times, these practices were normal. Now the law of animal protection prohibits hunting these animals, so the incorporation of these dogs is very important because they protect the wild carnivores by chasing them away and not killing them. The documentary is a way to introduce this new methodology, which is important because, for some in Cochrane, it was hard to adjust to this new process of using the dogs.
Photo: Jimmy Valdés Baigorria
What role do the dogs play in the future Patagonia National Park?
I think they become an excellent tool for protecting the herds, and as a way to draw the community together so that they feel compelled to protect the predators, which are key elements in these ecosystems because they’re natural regulators.
What role do these types of videos (or documentaries) have in creating a national park?
These days, the economic systems in place are only concerned with production and economic development, brushing conservation to the side. As a result, the idea is that conservation works against the system, and people think that it won’t lead to anything good. I think it’s very important that communities get to know the work and the importance of conservation in order to leave a better place for future generations. I believe that making films about our Patagonia promotes a connection to conservation and to the natural world that exists around us.
Photo: Jimmy Valdés Baigorria
What future projects do you have planned with Conservación Patagónica?
It would be great for me to develop as a documentary maker here in Patagonia; it’s taken a lot to obtain the means to do so, but little by little I’ve made progress. When you’re doing what you love to do, it’s hard to explain the pride you get from working in the region you’re from. Next, I would like to make a film about the wildlife recovery work done here [in Valle Chacabuco], directed by Cristian Saucedo. 

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