National Geographic: Spitting Mad - Wild Camel of the Andes

Synopsis:
Year:
1997
7 Views

In remote corners of South America

lives a feisty animal,

the elegant camel-like guanaco.

You've got to be taught to survive here,

especially if you're a male guanaco.

In the southern Andes Mountains,

fierce blizzards and crippling cold

threaten to freeze you to death.

Then there are killer cats.

This is the home of the mountain lion

known here by the Inca name, puma.

It's strong and powerful predator.

If the puma does kill you,

a long list of animals

will gladly dine on your remains

from little gray foxes

to giant Andean condors.

And you can't even trust your own kind.

If the cold or the cats don't kill you,

rivals for your territory will

certainly try.

But without a territory,

you can't get a female to breed.

So a male guanaco's life

is filled with conflict.

Supremacy is the objective,

physical violence the method,

females the prize.

So if you're a male guanaco,

tough isn't enough.

You also have to be spitting mad.

Born of volcanic fire,

carved by ice and wind,

the famous granite towers of Paine

are the crowning glory of the world's

longest mountain chain-the Andes.

This is Southern Chile's Torres del

Paine National Park

only a thousand miles from

the ice-cap of Antarctica.

And just over the mountains

is the Pacific Ocean

a birthplace of storms.

So this land is battered by some

of the fiercest winds on earth.

To survive here,

you need to be a very special animal

one that is adaptable,

well-organized, alert,

and above all tough the guanaco.

And they certainly are well adapted

having thick, soft coats

for protection against the cold.

Wild ancestors of the

domesticated Ilama,

their fleece was much admired

by the Inca civilization,

providing warmth and wealth.

But a warm coat is not enough.

A male guanaco

starts adult life homeless and alone,

and to by successful,

he has to win a territory and breed.

So he must communicate

with potential mates-and rivals.

A raised tail and lowered ears

mean aggression.

And the elaborate language

makes intentions clear.

The ear flagging, the spitting,

the raucous screams

means a battle for territory

is in the making.

The war dance confirms

they will fight.

And the final exchange of insults

starts the conflict.

With battle lines drawn,

they try to intimidate each other

with a show of strength.

If that doesn't work,

it's grid - iron mayhem.

These fierce fights are dangerous

and could lead to broken bones

- even death.

But in the world of the guanaco,

territory is everything.

The rival must be driven

right out of the territory.

The males are fighting

for this prime real estate,

a lush area with ample food and water.

And by winning this territory,

the victor is able to attract females

an absolute necessity

if he's to breed successfully.

His aggressive defense

means the females of his family group

can feed without hassle

from other males.

Guanacos graze carefully,

and their soft,

cloven hooves minimize damage

to the delicate turf.

These is safety in numbers, too

- many pairs of eyes and ears

provide protection from predators,

and in this landscape,

predators can hide almost anywhere.

The male deeps a sharp lookout

for danger

- especially pumas,

the guanacos worst nightmare.

Pumas are a serious threat to survival

and often stalk lake edges

for thirsty guanacos.

They are powerful predators,

six feet of lethal muscle,

capable of pulling down

prey eight times their weight.

But a fully grown guanaco

is a difficult sharp-eyed target.

If they're seen,

pumas won't waste energy

with further hunting.

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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