Due to the efforts of conservationists and the Chilean government, the endangered guemal deer of South America’s Patagonia region is starting to return to the area. Once bordering on extinction, the guemal, also called South Andean or huemal deer, were reduced to only 1 percent of its previous population over the last century. According to Physorg.com, scientists estimate that 50 percent of this decrease happened in recent years and only 2,500 deer remain in the wild.
The guemal deer is not too unlike whitetail deer but with a stockier, shorter build more suited to rocky terrain. Strangely, the guemal also congregate in mixed-sex groups for periods throughout the year. The animal only has one natural predator, the cougar, but habitat loss and the introduction of invasive species have put an unbearable strain on the deer. The intrusion of farmers and their cattle also noticeably affected the deer for the worse.
Field stations were set up in parts of Patagonia, a popular tourist location and considered by many to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth. These stations serve as a base for park rangers to oversee policies that have been enacted since the 1960s, but never enforced properly. Poaching and harmful farming practices declined dramatically, leading to a rise in the deer population.
“National parks are at the heart of modern conservation, but there has to be an investment in management and protection on the ground. You can’t just have a ‘paper park,’ where an area is ring-fenced on a map but physically ignored,” said Cristóbal Briceño, who co-authored a new study that has found a startling increase in Patagonia’s deer population since conservation efforts were put in place.
“Our results suggest that synergistic conservation actions, such as cattle removal and poaching control, brought about by increased infrastructure, can lead to the recovery of species such as the threatened Huemul.”
Briceño is hopeful that by studying the efforts in Patagonia, experts can find solutions to aid other threatened species.
You can read more about the study here.