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Flora and Fauna in Chile

Wedged between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, the elongated body of Chile stretches from the dry and hot Atacama Desert in the north to clear blue bodies of water in the Lake District, right down to the icy depths of Patagonia, encompassing a huge diversity of terrains and therefore of animal and vegetal life.

 

Flora

 

It is estimated that Chile has between 5,000 and 6,000 species of flora, including the largest number of endemic plants on earth. Due to its isolation from its neighboring countries by desert, ocean and mountain, Chile’s flora must specifically adapt to a range of unique habitats and conditions. To the north, close to the Peruvian border, the arid Atacama Desert blocks any migration of species into the country, and what vegetation there is clusters near the coastal areas. There, cacti are able to carve out an existence in extraordinary ways, by absorbing moisture from the ocean fog.

 

Native flora dominates most of central Chile, whose shrubs are able to conserve water during the dry season. Chile’s national flower, the red bell-shaped Copihue, can be found in the central valley and southern parts of Chile, and as a climbing plant, can reach up to ten meters high above shrubs and trees.

 

The climate in the south of Chile has favored the growth of one of the largest temperate rainforests in the world. Encompassing the Valdivian, Magellanic and Araucaria forests, the south is home to evergreens and bamboo like plants, pine trees and shrubbery, and the famous ‚ÄúMonkey puzzle‚ÄĚ tree.

 

Moreover, the Juan Fern√°ndez Islands and Easter Island are home to over 209 native species.

 

Fauna

 

Chile has a fascinating array of fauna. Due to its many unique habitats, the country has bred a number of endemic species, of which a full third cannot be found anywhere else on earth. This includes the moustached turca, a bird found only in Chile’s Mediterranean woodlands, the long-tailed chinchilla, and the Juan Fernandez fur seal.

 

Commonly seen in Chile are llamas and alpacas, although more specifically in the Altiplano. The northern coast boasts a variety of bird and marine life, among which sea lions and bottle-nosed dolphins. Three species of flamingo can also be found in Chile¬īs lakes, including the gregarious pink flamingo in the Atacama Desert.

 

Condors are common performers in the central valley, gliding their way throughout the region. Elsewhere, in the Andes, the puma is known to prowl covertly, along with its endangered cousins, the Andean cat and jaguar.

 

Meanwhile, penguins prove they are far from passé in Patagonia, drawing thousands of tourists each year to catch a glimpse of their smart and dignified gatherings. To march in the happy feet of these little black and white birds, head to Punta Arenas, where two Magellanic Penguin colonies can be found near the town: the Otway Sound colony can be reached by car, but the second requires a ferry to take you to Isla Magdalena.

 

Patagonia’s largest land vertebrate, the guanaco, a type of wild llama, can be found in Torres del Paine. It is known to exceed speeds of around 30 miles per hour, running faster than any other Patagonian animal excluding the puma. However, if you happen to miss it, listen out for its distinctive greeting, which at times can be confused for a turkey like gobble.

 

The nand√ļ, a large flightless bird, also inhabits parts of southern Chile and the highland regions. This ostrich-like bird can run exceptionally fast and is able to hide its neck and head under its full body of feathers in order to blend inconspicuously into its environment.

 

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Chile: Flora and Fauna in the Reserva Nacional Lago Palena, Patagonia Species, Chile's National Flower, Easter Islands wildlife and flora, Wildlife: Plants and Animals and Magellanic penguins.








By Abigail Foulkes
I`m living in Quito and working for Viva having just enjoyed three months traveling in South America. I love music and play the guitar and flute...
11 May 2009




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