Chilean guanacos, new study


This video says about itself:

A baby guanaco nurses in a field below Chile’s Andes Mountains.

From Wildlife Extra:

Study indicates how Chilean guanacos can live in harmony with farmers and loggers

Scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have been studying guanacos – wild cousins to domestic llamas – on the Chilean side of the South American island of Tierra del Fuego.

There, the animals are coming into increased conflict with sheep ranchers and loggers, threatening their continued existence.

The results of the study, which appears in the online journal Oryx, indicate that better understanding of guanacos’ seasonal movements, coupled with a limited, science-based and sustainable harvest of the animals, may be the key to conserving the species in that area.

Guanacos once numbered in the many millions in South America.

In Tierra del Fuego, however, by the mid 1970s and as a result of hunting, competition from sheep and habitat degradation, the population had reduced to only around 7,000 individuals on the Chilean side of the island.

Since then, numbers have recovered to more than 60,000 as a result of hunting restrictions and reduced sheep numbers, but more understanding of their behaviour was needed in order to prevent conflict with other interests on the island.

The WCS team conducted seasonal counts of guanacos and fitted 10 animals with radio collars in and around Karukinka Natural Park, a vast wilderness owned and managed by WCS as a protected area.

Before the animals were released, blood samples were taken so that the scientists could conduct complementary health and genetic tests.

The team found that while some guanacos were more sedentary, others conducted seasonal migrations spending time in grasslands in the summer and forests in the winter, and sometimes even crossing into Argentina.

Once they ventured outside of the park, they often came into conflict with sheep ranchers and loggers.

High sheep densities and poor range conditions on the ranches reduce food sources for guanacos. When they then migrate into forests to feed on seedlings it is affecting forest regeneration and increasing conflict with logging interests.

Lead author Claudio Moraga of WCS says: “Our results provide insight into the interactions among guanacos, forests and livestock ranching, and may be used to reduce conflicts and guide conservation of Tierra del Fuego’s unique ecosystems.

“Ultimately, conservation of these ecosystems depends on reconciling the interests of livestock husbandry, guanaco conservation, and the timber industry.”

Chilean authorities hope that the sale of guanaco meat from recently allowed legal harvests will be viewed as a contribution to the economy of the region.

The study authors say that harvesting guanacos may be a useful tool to promote guanaco conservation in parts of Tierra del Fuego, but it should be part of an integrated management strategy, and it must allow maintenance of key ecological processes such as seasonal migration between forests and grasslands.

9 thoughts on “Chilean guanacos, new study

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