Chilean Patagonia. Torres del Paine (Part 3)

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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Although the variety and number of prey in Torres del Paine would lead you to think otherwise, there are very few carnivores here.  Canines are very scarce in the South American forest world.  However, two types of fox are to be found here, about which almost nothing is known in terms of their habits and biology : the red fox, which inhabits the high plateaux up to an altitude of 4,000 metres and this, the grey fox or chacalillo,  which lives in the Patagonian savannah and desert.

The common cauquén or Magellanic goose even reaches as far as the islands of Tierra del Fuego, located beyond the extremity of the southern peninsular.  There are three species of Magellanic geese, of which the former is the most numerous.  The cauquén feeds on a grass, which is why it is hunted out by Patagonian livestock farmers, who claim that six wild Magellanic geese can eat as much as a sheep, meaning that the large gaggles are competition for their flocks.

Fortunately, they are protected in the Park and only the red fox, certain birds of prey and, on rare occasions, the puma can pose a threat.

19 :28 The guanaco is  probably the most characteristic animal of Patagonia.  Of the four South American camels, it is the most adaptable and can live from sea level up to a height of 4000 metres.

The relation between indigenous South American Indians and the camels dats back at least 4,500 years. It was  a unilateral, close dependency which is why the guanaco became a totemic animal. Until the first half of this century, guanacos were indispensable to the survival of the Patagonian Indians, who obtained flesh for eating, wool for clothing and fibres for sewing.

There is a stable population of them in Torres del Paine.  The young males congregate in herds of approximately 30 until the age of five, when they reach sexual maturity.  At this moment, they separate form the group and seek their own territory and females and form a new family.

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