The Climiate Crisis Comes to Chile's Ranchers

Niki Rust, Solange Vargas

When you think of the effects of climate change on wildlife, what’s the first image that pops into your mind? Perhaps it’s a lonely, starving polar bear desperately searching for food on a melting ice sheet, or a burnt koala struggling across the Australian bush as fires devastate its habitat. What you’re probably not picturing is a herd of wild camel relatives atop Chile’s warming mountain ranges.

Chile is home to two wild camelid species: the smaller vicuña, found in the Andean plains, and its larger cousin, the guanaco, found in deserts, shrublands and steppes across the country. Guanacos aren’t well known to many people outside Latin America, but you may know their woolly domesticated relatives, the llama and the alpaca. Guanacos of central Chile can be found in the mountainous Valparaíso Region on the border with Argentina, where they eke out a harsh existence in dry grassland. But, as these areas become drier due to climate change, guanacos are increasingly getting on the wrong side of their human neighbours.

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