Guanacos are the iconic species of the Patagonian steppe. The most abundant herbivore of the region until the introduction of sheep from Europe in the late 1800s, they regulated the distribution and abundance of plants in the region, and served as the major food species for Patagonia’s top carnivore, the puma, and scavenger, the Andean condor.
Persecuted for their competition with livestock, guanacos are largely relegated to the driest lands that are not suitable for livestock. While historical populations were widely migratory, most current groups are small and sedentary, confined by fences, livestock, and hunting. Once numbering up to 50 million animals, they now remain in healthy numbers only in some areas within Patagonia, with a total estimated population around 2 million.
We work with government authorities to develop and implement science-based conservation and management of guanacos to help re-establish their role as the principal herbivore in protected areas and ensure the persistence of healthy populations. We work closely with livestock producers to help them develop the means to maintain their livelihoods without persecution of guanacos. Finally, we promote sustainable use of the species through live-shearing of free-ranging individuals for their valuable wool, the establishment of mechanisms for traceability of guanaco fiber, and effective control by government of poaching and illegal trafficking of guanaco fiber.