Chilean Patagonia. Torres del Paine (Part 2)

The Torres del Paine National Park is located in the Chilean Patagonia, in an area of climatic contrasts that have allowed a great variety of plant and animal species.

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The Park also has a number of salt water lakes where small invertebrates proliferate, which attract the water birds.  Chilean and Andean flamingos enjoy these salpetre pools on the high plateaux for feeding, filtering the minute shrimps and artemias that live in the water through their beaks.
The coscoroba swan also feeds in the salt water lakes, one of the most endangered and rare birds in the world.  The latest statistics indicate a population of 400 birds throughout Chile, which renders the coscoroba swan,  together with the Chilean deer, and the puma, one of the Parks rarities.

The bird population of Torres del Paine also includes a number of birds of prey.  The crested caracara or owl are omnivorous birds which, until the middle of this century, co-existed with the dark caracara, a species driven to extinction by hunters avid for their flesh. Because of their size, they do not pose a threat to the flamingos or swans, but the carcass of a cauquén, or wild goose,  on one of the shores provides them with a real feast.

The Park´s most interesting plant formation is the Magellanic deciduous forest.  The main component of the forest expanses, more abundant on the Pacific slope of the Adean range, is the lenga, a tree of the Notophagus genus, also known as the southern or false beech.
The lenga give shelter to and feed birds such as the caturra, a small parrot, whose habitat extends as far as the Tierra de Fuego, transforming it into the most southern representative of an eminently tropical family of birds.

The brushwood is the habitat of Darwin´s rhea, or petizo, as it is called in Chile.  When Darwin reached these latitudes during his historical journey, he was surprised to note that these birds moved faster than the horses of the gauchos who were trying to catch them.
The rhea´s powerful legs enable it to reach incredible speeds but the price of this evolutionary development of such powerful bones and muscles  has been the loss of its ability to fly, as is the case with its cousin the emu, the cassowary and the more familiar ostrich.

The six- striped armadillo is a specialist in walking among the brushland.
Its armoured body enables it to open a path through the densest thickets, which acts as a defense against predators.
Armadillos are very primitive animals which have mainly survived because of their skin plates, which have enabled them to flee through the densest of brushland.  Buy they also have powerful claws with which they can burrow tunnels in a matter of minutes, definitively escaping the clutches of any enemy.

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