Hunting Proposed as Guanaco Population Swells
The director of agricultural and livestock agency SAG, Aníbal Ariztía, has announced that the agency are considering allowing hunting in the Tierra del Fuego Archipelago by tourists. The population of guanaco in Chile have been increasing by 10,000 each year with the population reaching 200,000 this year, a ten-fold increase from the population of 20,000 recorded in the 1970’s. More information about the fauna of the area can be found on swoop-patagonia.co.uk .
The director stressed that the hunting would not be recreational and would be controlled and regulated, with the meat and hides being used locally and for export. The community of the area and some local environmental groups have voiced concerns about this change in touristic activity in the area. The Lenga forests where the guanaco are most prevalent are popular trekking holiday destinations due to the spectacular biodiversity in the area, which objectors say could be damaged if hunting is allowed.
The guanaco are a regional sub-species of the common llama and are protected by hunting laws in Chile and internationally by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Apart from the puma they have no other natural predators, which may be part of the reason why their population has grown so substantially. The guanaco can live for up to 25 years, their ageing members adding to the size of their populations.
The fur of the young guanaco is used in luxury fabrics but the meat is generally regarded as quite flavourless and as a result is usually dried and made into a jerky-like product. The tougher skin on the back of their necks was traditionally used as shoe-leather. Although the species are protected hunting has been permitted on a small scale over the past 6 years. The change of emphasis to tourist-based hunting was explained by the director of SAG as a “scenario in which foreigners would pay tens of thousands of dollars and leave currency here. There are no laws in Chile stating the guanaco must be protected at all costs.”
Big-game hunting in Chile is already popular and some private ranches advertise expensive set trips with a ‘menu’ of guaranteed dead animals included in the price. Some even controversially advertise puma-shooting, which is currently illegal in Chile. Guanaco are regarded as far easier to hunt and are less of a trophy-animal than puma, which raises the question whether the sport will be exotic enough to actually attract tourists. Chile have strict laws on the use of firearms but crossbows are legal to use to hunt without a permit.
The popular activity of trekking in South America relies on the area’s tranquility as its main selling-point. Gunfire in the Tierra Del Fuego could be seen as counter-productive to the tourism industry in the area. Crossbow shooting would be a quieter alternative, and perhaps this will be discussed as the new legislation is proposed in detail.
Another concern raised was about the precision of the hunting for effective population reduction. The head of the South American Camelid group Gabriela Lichenstein spoke of her doubts about the legislation, noting “It would be impossible to ask a tourist to hunt exactly the kind of animal that is required to lower densities.” The debate continues over the issue of whether new tourism can merge comfortably with animal population-management. For more tourism information check out the crusies on swoop-patagonia and their other excursions for the more adventurous traveller.
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