Book arrow_upward_alt

The Importance of Guanaco to the Patagonian Ecosystem

Diego Salas

This cute animal is very photogenic and usually appears on postcards that portray the amazing natural landscape of Patagonia. However, while it may spend some of its time posing for tourist photos, much of the Patagonian ecosystem is depending on its existence.

The guanaco is a mammal belonging to the camelid family; it lives in South America’s arid and mountainous areas. Highly adapted to extreme conditions, it can be found naturally in northern and southern regions of Chile. In Patagonia, its presence plays a fundamental role in the conservation of biodiversity and in the conservation of ecological balances.

One of the guanaco’s main roles is as a seed spreader. After feeding on plants and fruits, the guanaco transports their seeds in its digestive system and deposits them in different places through its excrement. In this way, it contributes to the process of vegetation regeneration and the diversification of species in the area.

Additionally, the guanaco is an important food source for many other species, such as pumas, foxes and condors. Along Torres del Paine National Park’s many trails and those of its surroundings, it is common to find guanaco remains with evidence that they have been hunted and caught by predators. This scene may be shocking for some tourists, but it reflects this ecosystem’s natural balance, which must be preserved.

Conservation status of guanaco in Chile

The guanaco faces several threats that put its survival at risk, including its being hunted for skins and considered a competition for livestock. Likewise, habitat loss, being run over by cars and dog attacks also negatively impact their population.

For this reason, since 2011, it has been classified as a Vulnerable species (VU) in the regions of Arica and Parinacota and Los Lagos, and as of Mild Concern (LC) in Aysén and Magallanes, according to the Species Classification Regulation (Reglamento de Clasificación Especies – RCE). Currently, there is an estimated population of 160,000 guanacos within the Chilean territory.

To protect this noble animal and its habitat, some nature reserves in Chile, such as the Patagonia National Park, the Torres del Paine National Park, the Pan de Azúcar National Park, Llanos de Challes and Nevado de Tres Cruces, have adopted conservation measures and care protocols.

It is important that we all do our part to protect the animals of Patagonia and their natural habitat, since, as we have seen, while sometimes it is not obvious, each one plays a fundamental role in maintaining the ecological balance.

Would you like to see guanacos and other animals? Book your next vacation with us. If you want to explore Torres del Paine and delve deeply into the nature of this place at the bottom of the world, you must visit Tierra Patagonia. Write to and our experienced team of excursion experts will create an unforgettable adventure for you. We look forward to hearing from you!

Ilustración de un Guanaco. Créditos: Antonia Reyes: @paraiso__perdidio