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The case of the disappearing deer – and how a new corridor could save it

Still Waters

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Posted (IP: Staff) ·

Only 1,500 huemul remain in the world, but a parks corridor is being created to save the deer that features on Chile’s coat of arms

It is twilight in Las Horquetas valley in Patagonia’s northern Aysén region. Several cars have pulled over beneath sandy cliffs on a wide paved road. Just metres away, three deer graze unperturbed in the glow of the car lights.

The Patagonian huemul (Hippocamelus bisulcus), or South Andean deer, is the most endangered hoofed animal in South America. It has deep inset eyes, furry antlers and is no bigger than a toddler. Fewer than 1,500 survive today – two-thirds are found in Chile and the remainder in Argentina, where the huemul’s principal habitat is lenga forest and scrubland. They exist in severely fragmented groups of 101 known sub-populations, with 60% of these comprising only 10-20 individuals, making them susceptible to freak weather events. They also suffer from poor genetic diversity.


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