i guess we also could have put this one under "food in chile"...
however, it seems 'residents here generally abhor eating guanaco'...
oh well, whatever your preference for wild game might be...
here's a good take on the guanaco vs. sheep woes of the deep south...
btw - some images here...
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/26/world ... 0003138440
In Chile, an Animal Whose Numbers Please No One - By SIMON ROMEROSEPT. 25, 2014
From the mist-shrouded Patagonian steppe to the dense beech forests, shots pierce the air here for months on end each year. Hunters armed with telescopic rifles roam this archipelago at the southern tip of South America in pickup trucks as they pick off their prey: the guanaco.
Humans have already hunted the guanaco, a wild cousin of the llama, out of existence across big swaths of the continent. While hunting the animal here is legal, the culling of Tierra del Fuego’s guanaco herds is setting off a fierce debate over the fragile recovery of a native species and the sway of powerful ranching and logging interests, which contend that rising numbers of guanacos are competing with sheep for pasture and foraging in commercial hardwood forests.
“We’re witnessing a grotesque subordination to businessmen who view a creature of remarkable beauty and resilience as little more than a nuisance,” said Valeria Muñoz, a prominent animal rights activist in Punta Arenas, the regional capital. “It’s a return to a 19th-century mentality, where logging and sheepherding triumph over everything else.”
Elsewhere in South America, the hunting of animals for population control has largely focused on curbing invasive species. In Colombia, hunters have targeted the descendants of hippos imported by Pablo Escobar. In Ecuador, park rangers in the Galápagos Islands mounted an eradication campaign against goats that compete for food with native species like tortoises.
Chile’s hunting of guanacos seems more akin to the disputed control of native species in other countries, like Australia’s kangaroo hunts, raising the ire of animal rights groups and tourism officials who say the culling stains the reputation of a remote place where visitors are often stunned to come across herds of wild guanacos.
Guanaco hunting is prohibited along the main roads cutting through Tierra del Fuego — a land divided between Chile and Argentina that juts out from South America’s mainland like a spike — but along the back roads during the hunting season in the Chilean winter, the signs of the killing are clear.
Gunshots from the hunters’ rifles echo through the forests of lenga trees. Blood from recently hunted guanacos blemishes the snow. Communicating with the hunters by walkie-talkie, work crews fan out on private lands in search of the carcasses, hoisting them into pickup trucks for transport to slaughterhouses.
Ranchers who are allowed to carry out the hunts argue that they are victims of policies that have expanded Tierra del Fuego’s guanaco herds in recent decades. As recently as the 1970s, only a few thousand guanacos were thought to remain on Tierra del Fuego’s main island, an area larger than Belgium, after widespread poaching.
A crackdown by Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship on firearms ownership (and by extension hunting) opened the way for guanaco conservation efforts; the number of guanacos in Chile’s portion of Tierra del Fuego has climbed to about 150,000, according to Chile’s Agricultural and Livestock Service. The authorities allowed as many as 4,125 guanacos to be killed this year.
“Aside from competing for food with our sheep, there are now so many guanacos in Tierra del Fuego that they represent a risk for motorists trying to avoid them when the animals cross our roads,” said Eduardo Tafra, a rancher who butchers guanaco meat at his slaughterhouse in Cerro Sombrero, a windswept outpost on the plains.
“We do not want to exterminate the guanaco,” Mr. Tafra explained, “but we cannot idly sit by and watch it threaten our livelihood.”
Tierra del Fuego’s ranching culture has roots in the sheepherding operations established near the end of the 19th century, largely by British settlers who displaced nomadic hunters of guanacos. By the early 20th century, the Selk’nam, the indigenous people who had lived in Tierra del Fuego for thousands of years, had been almost completely wiped out in a brutal extermination campaign.
Throughout it all, the guanacos, one of the main sources of food for the Selk’nam, persisted in Tierra del Fuego and other parts of Patagonia. The animals are thought to have first been glimpsed by Europeans in 1520 when Ferdinand Magellan, the explorer who sailed through the strait that now bears his name, described seeing a “camel without humps.”
Part of the camelid family, guanacos once numbered as many as 50 million in South America, their numbers exceeding other big hoofed creatures around the world like the caribou, African wildebeest and saiga antelope, according to the American zoologist William G. Conway.
“Enormous numbers of guanaco haunt these grim plateaus,” the British explorer H. Hesketh-Prichard wrote in “Through the Heart of Patagonia,” a 1902 book in which he describes no-holds-barred hunting for guanacos. “They were about as tame as English park deer, allowing us to approach on foot to within 70 or 80 yards.”
As herds of nonnative sheep expanded in Patagonia, the number of guanacos plummeted, reaching a current level of only about 500,000, said Cristóbal Briceño, an expert on guanacos at the University of Chile. Guanaco herds have dwindled significantly in other parts of Chile where they were once plentiful, he said.
While the guanaco is not threatened with extinction on a continental scale, the animal still faces serious threats of poaching and the degradation of rangelands, and is likely to disappear from several of the regions that make up its historical distribution range, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The Chilean authorities have quietly allowed hunting for guanacos in Tierra del Fuego over the last decade, arguing that the culling is needed to maintain a “sustainable” population that does not adversely affect other underpinnings of the regional economy.
Residents here generally abhor eating guanaco, so most of the butchered guanaco meat is exported to Europe. (An exception can be found at La Cuisine, a restaurant in Punta Arenas that offers Guanaco Grand Veneur, a stew of the camelid in a red wine sauce accompanied by mashed potatoes and pumpkin.)
“We closely monitor every aspect of the hunting to ensure it is carried out in a proper way,” said Nicolás Soto Volkart, an official with the Agricultural and Livestock Service in Punta Arenas. “We’re convinced this is good policy after guanacos recovered in numbers since the 1970s.”
Still, tensions run high over the hunting of guanacos, herbivores that eat everything from cacti to lichens and fungi. A proposal in 2012 to expand the program by allowing tourists to take part in the guanaco hunts was shelved after it met with fierce criticism.
Advocates of “rewilding” forests — essentially restoring ecosystems to something resembling how they once functioned — say that guanacos could help areas where they are reintroduced by dispersing seeds for certain types of trees.
“Guanacos seem to be an important missing species that used to play an important ecological role,” said Meredith Root-Bernstein, a conservation scientist at Aarhus University in Denmark.
Pointing to a growing resistance in Chile to hunting of various types, officials at the Agricultural and Livestock Service remain on edge after protesters attacked their building in Punta Arenas this year with firebombs in response to a separate proposal to allow the hunting of feral dogs accused of attacking sheep.
Even during the hunting season, the silhouettes of guanacos can still be glimpsed on stretches along the Strait of Magellan. The guanacos often gaze at approaching vehicles before sprinting away across the steppe.
“Hunting these animals is an aberration that reflects our skewed priorities,” said Enrique Couve, the president of Tierra del Fuego’s chamber of tourism.
“The guanaco is a treasure of Patagonia that brings a sense of wonder to people who are fortunate enough to see it,” he said. “And here we are, watching it be killed as if it were some sort of pest.”