Hunters, Rangers, Cougars, and Jaguars: Human and Nonhuman Territories at the Argentine-Brazilian Border, 1960s–80s

Thursday, January 4, 2018: 1:50 PM
Madison Room A (Marriott Wardman Park)
Frederico Freitas, North Carolina State University
Established in the 1930s at the Argentine-Brazilian borderland as adjacent but independent protected areas by the governments of Argentina and Brazil, the Iguazú and Iguaçu national parks add a layer of complexity to the study of the international boundary separating them. Beginning in the 1960s the boundaries dividing park and non-park areas, and separating Argentina from Brazil, became the frontline of the contention between national park officials and the local population engaged in poaching activities. With parks located at the two sides of the border, poaching in many cases entailed the simultaneous crossing of national-park and international boundaries. These transboundary spatial practices of hunters and rangers were also shaped by the territorial practices of nonhuman animals, particularly big cats. In a setting where man-made boundaries (international borders, national-park boundaries, roads) overlay natural boundaries (rivers and waterfalls), qualitatively different spatial practices clash in the territorial encounters between cougars, jaguars, and humans. Within the space of these protected areas, humans exerted their spatial power over other human and nonhuman animals through a series of territorial practices: poaching, surveilling, enforcing legislation, visiting sites, tracking animals, plotting, mapping. These practices were, in turn, countered by a set of feline spatial practices such as hunting, roaming, and the crossing of borderlines, creating a field for human-nonhuman interaction that was rooted in this geographical space. This paper, therefore, is an attempt to understand the importance of space in the interaction between agents with different, but interconnected, spatial practices. Through the joint use of historical sources and GIS-based spatial analysis, it assesses when, where, and how these encounters between rangers, poachers, and big cats took place. The paper also demonstrates how changes in the border practices of park officials, hunters and big cats reshuffled the terms of these encounters.