Over the last few days there have been not just one but two puma sightings in urban Santiago. During one of the first nights of the curfew one of these big cats took to patrolling the empty streets, all the while completely ignoring its police escort. Yesterday, another animal was leaping between gardens in a nearby part of the city.
The puma or mountain lion, is one of the true residents of the valley where the city sits. They roam the slopes of the precordillera, the foothills of the Andes mountains, and have long been important figures in the legends and myths belonging to the aboriginal cultures of the Americas. South America is home to two types of big felines: the puma and the jaguar. Both ranking very high on the scale of cool animals. As Santiago has grown and encroached further into their habitat the number of encounters with pumas have increased over recent years.
The city has begun to shut down over the past few days and a couple of these beautiful animals have taken the opportunity to venture into the now tranquil and people-less streets. These sort of wildlife comebacks have been occurring all over the world, dolphins in Venice, wolves in Spain and anteaters (!) in Colombia.
Santiago officially goes into lockdown tonight after a few nights of military enforced curfew. Well, not all Santiago. The east side of the city, where most cases of Covid-19 are concentrated and where I happily happen to live, will be shut down. It will be interesting to see how it will work. The segregation of Chilean society will allow most of the city to continue on in a somewhat normal fashion. 1,3 million people will have to stay in their homes and there has been no provision for daily exercise included in the rules. In Dublin it would be like locking down everyone from Ballsbrigde to Dun Laoghaire.
The Chilean government’s response up until this point has been quite similar to that of Varadkar and Co. Lots of testing and a gradual ramping up of containment measures. Both governments shared the common factor of having almost negative approval ratings coming into the crisis. Perhaps this lack of a need to fawn to an electorate has enabled them to think clearer and make better decisions. It seems that in Ireland there is general approval of the measures being taken. This unfortunately is not the case in Chile where there is all sorts of unnecessary political sniping going on.
Neighboring countries such as Peru and Argentina were forced in total lockdowns much earlier as they do not have the capacity to test or treat large quantities of patients. Brazil is going down a different road with its nutcase of a president currently fighting with regional governors over whether the virus is real or not.
Which strategy is the best? Who knows. All we can do is hope that this seemingly endless horror show of a Sunday afternoon draws to a conclusion over the coming weeks. And for more puma sightings.