SANTIAGO – A scientific investigation has confirmed the presence of the endangered south Andean deer in the northern part of Chilean Patagonia, where it was known to have existed in the past but has not been reported there for a considerable time, except in the tales of some local residents.
The discovery occurred in the Puelo River basin in the Chilean Lakes region of the Andes, and was identified as the south Andean deer species previously discovered further to the north of Chilean Patagonia, those making the study told EFE on Tuesday.
“It is relevant to know that a species with so few remaining specimens has survived in Puelo, and very important for the biodiversity of the area, which has pumas, the world’s smallest deer known as the pudu, glaciers and 70 percent native forest, the project director of the Puelo Patagonia Corp., Andres Diez, told EFE.
Up to now the former existence here of south Andean deer was known by the antlers found, but its current presence was known only through local reports that seemed somewhere between myth and legend.
Starting with the stories of local residents and thanks to the use of technology, the NGO that Diez represents, in collaboration with the Tompkins Conservation Foundation and with the funding of National Geographic, got to work to make the first scientific find of south Andean deer in the Puelo River basin.
Thanks to the installation of spy cameras, the experts managed to get the first pictures of the species and determine its location, which had been uncertain since this deer, native to southern Chile and Argentina, has been fleeing its natural habitat to escape from threats like livestock, dogs and boars.
“Through spy cameras we have caught images of different adult south Andean deer – males, females and their nursing fawns,” said the director of Tompkins Conservation Wildlife Recovery, Cristian Saucedo, according to a press release issued by those responsible for the study.
Saucedo said the project will continue over the rest of the year and that it plans to plot the location of the species in the area and to propose conservation strategies with a cross-border focus, since south Andean deer, condors and other species are integral parts of the Andean Patagonia ecosystem shared by Chile and Argentina.
The scientists will work to determine how many of these deer exist in the region, fit them with collars and use telemetry to track their movements and behavior.
“We can’t stop now, it’s of vital importance to unite public and private efforts to assure the conservation of this population of south Andean deer over the long term,” Diez said, as reported in the same press release.
The south Andean deer is one of the most iconic species of the Chilean ecosystem, and even appears on the nation’s coat of arms. Its current poulation is estimated at less than 2,000, between Argentina and Chile. They are increasingly restricted to remote, hard-to-reach areas.
The project that permitted this scientific discovery is planned to take 13 months, from Sept. 1, 2018, to Sept. 30, 2019, at a total cost of $78,422.