In Patagonia, the largest and most widely distributed carnivore is the puma or mountain lion. The smaller Andean cat is an endangered species.
Wild grazing mammals include the guanaco, a relative of the domestic llama and alpaca, which is most abundant in the Patagonia steppe but also inhabits parts of the high Andes. The South Andean huemul, a type of deer, is the subject of a joint conservation effort between Chile and Argentina.
The pudu is a miniature deer found in wooded areas of the Patagonian Andes; like the huemul it is difficult to spot. Other animals include red and gray foxes, grison, a grey marten-like predator with a black nose, skunks and armadillos.
Geoffroy's or Mountain Cat - Geoffroy's cats are another of the little known, small, South American spotted cats, although they are currently thought to be the most abundant small cat in their range. They tend to avoid open areas, preferring dense scrubby vegetation. They can be encountered in the foothills of the Patagonian Andes but not in the coniferous forest where they are replaced by the kodkod. They are good climbers and swimmers, local people call them 'fishing cats' and claim they readily enter water. The local common name is gato montes meaning cat of the mountain.
Kodkod - Kodkods are the smallest wild felid in the western hemisphere. They are quite similar in appearance to Geoffroy's cat with whom they share their range, but are smaller, have a smaller face and a thicker tail growing wider towards the tip. Found only in south western Argentina and central and southern Chile, these cats are strongly associated with moist temperate mixed forest of the Andean and Coastal ranges, but not tolerant of altered habitats and never found in cleared forests. The local name is the huina.
Puma or Mountain Lion (cougar) - These cats have the greatest latitudinal distribution of any species of wild cat, ranging from northern British Columbia to the extreme southern tip of South America. As one of the top predators in the food chain, the cougar has been persecuted unmercifully by man. In Central and South America, cougar still occur throughout much of their historical range and are protected in all countries but Ecuador, El Salvador and Guyana.
Colo Colo or Pampas Cat - The pampas cat ranges along the south-western area of South America and, despite their name, they are not just found in grassland but also inhabit forests and high altitude regions. Pampas cats have an incredible diversity in coat coloration and markings, ranging from black to red, but often resembling a ginger tom.
The Chilean huemul - is a rare and poorly studied deer that lives only in the isolated temperate rainforests of southern Chile and neighbouring parts of Argentina. Despite being one of Chile's national symbols (it's depicted on the emblem), it is on the borderline of extinction with populations believed to be reduced to only 1,000 - 2,000 individuals. Huemul is a key large herbivore species in the temperate rainforest ecosystem, and has important local cultural status.
The main causes in the decline of the population of huemul are habitat destruction (as with most wildlife everywhere), the introduction of domestic animals, disease and hunting. There are some protected areas where huemul is found, but populations are small and extremely localised. Sightings and tracking records suggest that fragmented huemul populations still exist in naturally protected areas - evidence of the presence of huemul was recently recorded in Lago Las Torres National Reserve, bordering our own reserve, during a survey by Dr Andrew Smith, a British wildlife biologist.
Huemul can reach a height of 1.70m, females 1.50m, with weight ranging from 40 to 100 kg. The animal's coat is thick, fragile and long, varying in color according to the season: darker brown in summer, brown in autumn and gray in winter. Its ears can reach a length of up to 20 cm. Only the male sports antlers which fork into two branches, the rear one longer than the front one.
Pudu - The southern pudu is the world's smallest deer, only 24 - 32 inches long (600 to 825 mm) and 10 - 17 inches at shoulder height (250 to 430 mm). The coat is composed of long coarse hair. The body is low to the ground with short thick legs. Eyes and the ears are small compared with the body size and the tail is almost non-existent. Males have short, less than 4-inch (100 cm), spike antlers.
BIRDS OF THE MARSHES & RIVERS - Birds of this ecosystem typically include: Grebes, Cormorants, Egrets, Herons, Ibis', Storks, Flamingos, Coscorobas, Geese, Ducks, Pintails, Rails, Galinules, Coots, Snipes, Skimmers, King Fishers, Cinclodes, Teals and Shovelers.
BIRDS OF THE WOODLANDS, FORESTS & MEADOWS - Harriers, Hawks, Caracaras, Kestels, Owls, Doves, Pigeons, Plant Cutters, Parakeets, Woodpeckers, Flickers, Wiretails, Tree Runners, Tyrants, Swallows, Wrens, Lap Wings, Finches, Cowbirds, Mockingbirds, Blackbirds, Meadowlarks, Siskins and Sparrows.
BIRDS OF THE MOUNTAINS - This is the spectacular habitat of the Andean Condor with a wingspan over 3m (10-feet), Vultures, Eagles, Hawks, Canasteros, Earth Creepers and Miners.
In the rainforests, whether tropical or temperate, logging, cattle ranching, mining, oil extraction, hydroelectric dams and subsistence farming are the leading causes of habitat destruction.
Indirectly, the leading threats to rainforest ecosystems are unbridled development, funded by international aid-lending institutions such as the World Bank, and the voracious consumer appetites of industrialized nations.