Guanaco Habitat

By Naomi Millburn

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The guanaco (Lama guanicoe) is a South American species that is linked closely to the llama, as they are both members of the family Camelidae. These wild, camel-like creatures are notable for their elegant and dainty physical exterior, with narrow legs and necks. Guanacos closely resemble llamas, but are not as large.

Guanaco Basic Information

These foraging creatures consume exclusively plant matter, such as fungi, lichens, shrubs, cacti and grasses. Guanacos have brownish-red coats that are very dense. The majority of them reside within familial units that include many females, their offspring and a sole dominant, protective male. Other units include just young male guanacos, typically those that were driven out of their previous groups upon achieving physical maturity. However, male guanacos also frequently lead solitary, independent lifestyles outside of groups as well.

Geography of the Guanaco

Guanacos live only in South America, which is where they originated. Their geographic scope is rather broad and includes nations, such as Peru, Argentina, Paraguay, Chile and Bolivia. The majority of them, however, inhabit Argentina, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The total population of guanacos in South America is likely a little under 600,000 individuals. Guanacos are not considered to be an endangered species, as their numbers are consistent and steady.

Natural Habitat of the Guanaco

For the most part, guanacos reside in very elevated areas. They are prevalent in both semi-arid and dry environments. Guanacos often live in grasslands, montane areas, shrublands, savannas and steppes. Occasionally, they even reside in temperate forest settings, particularly during the cold winter months.

Habitat Risks for the Guanaco

Although guanacos are not an endangered species, loss of habitat is a major risk factor for them. A variety of different factors have negative effects on the natural living ranges for guanacos, such as mining, the oil industry, infrastructure, and excessive numbers of domestic cattle. Guanacos presently roam only through roughly 40 percent of their former scope. Fencing and poaching activities are other major problems for the continued success of the guanaco as a species. Within the past 100 years or so, the guanaco populace has experienced ups and downs due to these circumstances.

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