Some time ago I posted on cryptozoology (belief in monsters) and wrote about Patagonia's peculiar situation.
On one hand it is a very large surface of land with a small human population, it has a very large quantity of protected areas and National Parks in both Argentina and Chile, yet, it has also has...
suffered some great ecological changes since the early 1900s that may have altered the habitat of many cryptids that appear in the natives’ myths, making it less likely to find these creatures.
a. Sheep farming led to overgrazing on the steppe and altered the land available to other grazers.
b.It also led to the over-hunting of puma and condor (considered predators of sheep and lambs).
c. Cattle and horses introduced by the natives in the 1700s altered the forest environment and pushed the local deer (Huemul and Pudu Pudu) into less favorable environments.
d. Hunting by “sportsmen” and farmers have placed both local deer species close to extinction.
e. Salmon and trout introduced into lakes and rivers have preyed on the local relict fish species reducing the Patagonian otter’s food source. Both endemic fish and otter are endangered.
f. Beavers and European Red deer introduced into Patagonia have caused havoc in their habitat.
g. Climate change and global warming affect the formation of glaciers and the downstream fertility due to lack of water.
I have already mentioned the impact caused by salmon and trout (sustainability of monsters). Today I will comment about the severe impact that sheep farming has had on the Guanaco.
Guancaco (Lama guanicoe) is a native variety of camelid - a mammal related to the Asian camels. It is about 1 - 1,2 m (3 to 4 ft.) tall and weighs about 90 kg (200 lb.). It is related to the other South American camelids (alpaca, vicuña and llama). Nowadays there are only some 546 thousand guanaco in Patagonia (1997 data), while at the beginning of the XXth century there were seven million of them. At that time sheep farmers started to kill them arguing that they competed with their flocks for food. Current estimates indicate that before sheep were introduced into Patagonia, there may have been up to 22 million guanaco living on the steppe.
From a peak of 22 million sheep in 1952, the size of the flocks has dropped constantly. Currently there are 10 million sheep in Patagonia, and overgrazing has seriously damaged the environment causing desertification on 30% of the steppe's surface. And this area grows at 3% per year. Natural causes such as Hudson Volcano's 1990 eruption worsen the impact on the steppe's vegetation.
Nevertheless, there are some who are working to revert this serious problem.
Such as a NGO, Conservación Patagónica. (English site).
I am leaving for Patagonia now for a short vacation, I will resume my posts after Christmas.
 De la Vega, S., Las Leyes de la Estepa.
 Giraudo, C., Villagra, E., Villar,m., and Easdale,M., Los sistemas de producción ovina en la región Patagonia.
Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©