NEW YORK (August 27, 2012)—It’s official: Patagonian “green” cashmere has been certified as “Wildlife Friendly,” according to the Wildlife Conservation Society, supporter of a group of eco-minded cashmere producers living in Argentina’s Patagonian Steppe region. The new certification—granted by the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network—represents a victory for the Grupo Costa del Rio Colorado, a cooperative that works to minimize the impact of goat-herding on the Patagonian Steppe, also home to guanacos, rheas, Andean cats, and other distinctive and threatened wildlife. Cashmere produced by the group will now carry the “Wildlife Friendly” seal to distinguish it from cashmere from other sources. “This certification validates the efforts of the cooperative members, who have made significant sacrifices in trying to minimize the impact of cashmere production on this magnificent yet fragile landscape,” said Andres Novaro of WCS’s Patagonian and Andean Steppe Program. “Our recent success will serve as an example of how local businesses can be balanced with sustainable practices.” Gaining “Wildlife Friendly” certification is no easy matter. Businesses, producers, harvesters, and other applicants must commit to conserve threatened wildlife while contributing to the economic well-being of rural communities. Goods and services must undergo a strict peer-review process before certification can be granted. Over the past few years, Grupo Costa del Río Colorado producers have initiated several modifications to their cashmere production practices to make it more sustainable, including: the adjustment of herd sizes to match the carrying capacity of their lands; improvements in the health of goat herds; and the use of guard dogs to minimize livestock-wildlife conflicts with potential predators. In addition, they have made a commitment to not kill small cats, including the highly endangered Andean cat. While the cooperative’s herders now keep fewer goats, their income has increased due to better husbandry practices and the higher profit garnered from the recently acquired access to an international market. “Now consumers of high-quality cashmere products can contribute to the long-term health of Patagonia’s wildlife by buying ‘Wildlife Friendly’ products,” said Dr. Julie Kunen, Director of WCS’s Latin America and Caribbean Program, “We’re proud to be a supporter of the Grupo Costa del Río Colorado as they set a standard for sustainability for this remarkable region.” WCS has worked on the Patagonian steppe for more than 20 years conserving guanaco migrations while protecting Darwin´s rheas, Andean condors, waterfowl, and the southernmost population of Andean cats.
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