The Lunar Enchantment of the Huemul: Guardians of the Forests - Reserva Las Torres
29/02/2024

The Lunar Enchantment of the Huemul: Guardians of the Forests

People come to Torres del Paine National Park for many reasons. Some come to see the incredible geological formations that surround us, while others come to soak up the local flora and breathe the air in the shade of a lenga beech tree. And others come in search of wildlife, to see the animals that have made this park their home and to observe them in their natural environment. Today, we’ll tell you about a magical and elusive creature: the huemul, or South Andean deer.

Huemul

The huemul: Patagonia’s Elegant Deer

The huemul is one of the most emblematic animals in Chile’s fauna. For good reason, it is immortalized in the national coat of arms of our country, alongside the condor, one of the most majestic birds found on this continent.

This elegant and swift-footed South Andean deer is an endemic species, indigenous to and found only in this region of the world. Its delicate and peaceful gait through Patagonian forests hides a sad reality. The huemul population has decreased dramatically in recent decades, which has led its classification as an endangered species—and, in the regions of Ñuble and Biobío, a critically endangered species.

Unlike other deer in other parts of the world, the huemul is a very solitary animal and tends to move in small family groups, which makes them more difficult to observe in their natural environment. Park experts and tour guides warn that even if you spend days exploring the park, it is very unlikely that you spot one of these animals.

Unlike the guanaco in Patagonia, these animals are very elusive and avoid humans. While the guanaco is often seen even by the roadside, the huemul is very shy and easily scared away. Visitors have spent days searching for them with no luck, so we must be patient if we wish to see them.

Huemul

Visitors from the moon according to an ancient Tehuelche legend

There is a local legend that comes from the Tehuelche people that tells a curious and touching story of the origin of the huemules on the earth.

As the story goes, the huemules were once celestial beings who fell in love with the Earth. Looking down from the moon they peeked over the edges, fascinated by the rivers, mountains, volcanoes, valleys and forests found down on this planet.

But one day, they ventured too close to the lunar edge as they watched, and so fell down to our planet–forever unable to return to the moon which had been their home.

Ever since then, the legend has it, the huemules gave up their hopes of returning home, and so devoted themselves to being guardians of nature, guarding the secrets of their celestial nights in every corner of the Patagonian flora.

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