Wild animals in the Atacama Desert in Chile

Started Sep 6, 2014 | Discussions thread
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philzucker Veteran Member • Posts: 8,675
Wild animals in the Atacama Desert in Chile

During my five day visit to the Atacama Desert in Chile this May I had the chance to witness some of the wild animals living in it.

I have to admit that I neither have the experience nor the equipment of a wildlife photographer - my Tamron 18-250 (on my K5-II) had to do the tele work here, and I found it to be not really up to this task sometimes. But thanks to unexpected opportunities and experienced guides I at least got lucky a couple of times - within my capabilities ...

Let's start with a relative to the llama, the vicuna. A very graceful animal that lives in the higher regions of the Andes, here in a height of about 4.000 meters. You usually meet some herds, but you really have to look closely - they blend in very well with their background:

The vicunas were almost extinct, but due to active conversation programs the population is alive and well again. Hunting them is strictly forbidden nowadays. Vicunas are renowned for their extremly fine wool, but will only give about half a kilogram of it a year. And that's why its prohibitively expensive - around 300 US-Dollars per kilogram. According to the Wikipedia a wool scarf made of vicuna wool will set you back around 1.500 US-Dollars, and if you go for a topcoat better save 30.000 bucks first.

It's much lest costly to admire it form a safe distance then - but now you can almost feel it's fine fur, can't you?

In the heights of the Atacama you can also find some water fowl - well, not really, but at least birds on water, or to be more precise: on ice in the early mornings of the Altiplano.

I sadly couldn't identify this most interesting and very active species (any help here appreciated) ...

... but I sure know that the run like hell on the ice ...

... if a predator comes along:

The friendly guy in the last pic is a South American Gray Fox, and I met a brother of him a few days later in the early morning:

And in the desert's landscape he looked - very beautifully - like this:

Later that same day we luckily stumbled upon a herd of Nandus, that had rested on a street:

We were very close to them ...

... and so I had the chance to get a nice portrait of the male chief of the herd:

With a parting glance to the herd grazing in the desert with some impressive volcanoes in the background ...

... we move on to a completely different guy I had the chance to meet twice: the viscacha, a little fellow the belongs to the chinchilla family. Note his extraordinary whiskers:

I caught a sibling of his a bit more active some days before this sighting:

Now get's down to the salt flats, and one of its inhabitants, the aptly named saltflat lizard:

But the kings of the saltflat are of course the flamingos - either the Chilean variety ...

... or the Andean one, here in flight:

And with this more detailed shot of the Andean flamingo in flight I conclude my little showcase of animals of the Atacama:

Hope you enjoyed the tour in spite of some technical limitations.

I definitely have to get that DA55-300 sometime ...


PS: I hope I got those animal names right. According to my web search you have looked at theses species:

  • Vicunas (Vicugna vigucna)
  • South American Gray Fox (Pseudalopex griseus)
  • Ñandú (Pterocnemia pennata), here a subtype of the lesser Rhea (Rhea pennata tarapcensis)
  • Viscacha (Ladigium viscacia), also Southern Viscacha, a rodent of the Chinchilla family
  • Saltflat Lizard (Liolaemus fabiani)
  • Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis)
  • Andean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus andinus)

... and of course the unknown species of birds on the ice.

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