For 10,000 years, huge herds of guanacos, the wild ancestors of the llama and distant relatives of camels in Asia and Africa, made long-distance, seasonal migrations across the Patagonian steppe.
Long an important piece of the Patagonian ecosystem, in part as food for pumas and Andean condors, guanacos have seen serious declines. Sheep are one reason. Introduced in large numbers in the late 19th century, they competed with guanacos for forage and water. Sheep degraded guanacos' habitat and exposed them to new diseases and people hunted and persecuted guanacos to make room for their sheep. Today, most guanacos are found in small populations that no longer migrate, relegated to the driest lands not suitable for livestock.
WCS protects the remaining large, migratory populations of guanacos and other important populations in Argentina and Chile and we work with livestock producers to find ways they can co-exist with guanacos while still making a living.
By addressing threats to guanacos at the scale necessary for the conservation of this large, wide-ranging animal, we both conserve the dominant and most iconic species of the South American steppe and reduce threats for a host of other species and ecological processes.
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