The Falkland Islands and South Atlantic
GUANACO- Lama guanicoe, photo of West Falkland Atlantic coast

GUANACO- Lama guanicoe



  • GUANACO image


Introduced invasive species and breeding. Native of southern Argentina and Chile.

Guanacos stand 1- 1.2 m high at the shoulder and weigh 90-140kg with a camel- like head. They are double-coated with rust guard hairs growing through a soft woolly undercoat, comparable to best cashmere, and appear rust brown on their upperparts with white underparts. The tail is short and bushy. Males and females are very similar. Guanacos are gregarious, lone individuals are rare, with a family herd social structure. In the autumn rutting season males challenge each other and violent battles take place resulting in the loser being chased off. Young chulengo are born after a gestation of 345-360 days and are weaned after 6 months. Immature males are chased from the herd by the dominant male and may form a herd.

In 1862 and 1871, guanacos were unsuccessfully introduced in East Falklands south of Mount Pleasant at Mare Harbour. Prince Alfred, visiting the islands in 1871, hunted them. It is not recorded how long they survived on East Falklands. During the early 1930's John Hamilton, owner of Weddell Is, Beaver Island and adjacent islands, and also the Passage Islands, introduced guanacos (along with foxes and other exotics) hoping to diversify his farming enterprises. Between 1934 to 1939 four shipments of guanacos totalling 26 were imported. Government authorized the introduction of 11 to Sedge Island where they duly disappeared. In 1937 fifteen guanacos were introduced to Staats Island, a 500ha islet in the passage between Beaver Island and Weddell Island, and survived to form a herd. Over they years their population has fluctuated widely due to culling and natural causes. Few were left in 1959 after a severe culling effort as the animals were in a poor state and the island was overgrazed. They have not been culled since the 1980's. In 1982 there was a population of 136 animals (Strange) and in 2005 the number of guanacos on Staats was suggested to be 400. The owners of the island manage it as a guanaco research island and studies by camelid biologist W. Franklin has shown that Staats Island guanacos are smaller than that of Chile's guanacos and have more premature births and birth defects.

Sources include: The enigma of guanacos in the Falkland Islands; the legacy of John Hamilton-William L Franklin & Melissa M. Grigione, Falkland Islands State of the Environment Report 2008 Otley H, Munro G, Clausen A, Ingham B.The Dictionary of Falklands Biography- David Tatham, A Field Guide to the Wildlife of The Falkland Islands and South Georgia - Ian J Strange, A Guide to the Birds and Mammals of Coastal Patagonia- Graham Harris,
Photographic credits: Header- Robert Maddocks, Guanaco- Iakov Fillimonov/
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