Biodiversity within hand’s reach

The skies, forests, wetlands and coasts of Patagonia are home to native birds, mammals, and lush vegetation

Mammals

In Karukinka at least 99 species of animals have been registered: 17 mammals, 77 birds and five fishes. Among the native mammals highlights the guanaco, which form groups and together with its chulengos (offspring) freely roam the steppe and forest. It is estimated that in Tierra del Fuego there are over 60,000 individuals, the majority of which are in Karukinka.

More elusive and scarce, and very threatened, the Fueguian culpeo fox today takes refuge in the forested areas of the park and is difficult to spot. It feeds on native flora and fauna.

Among rodents there are specimens with lovely names, such as the Long-haired field mouse, Woody field mouse, the Yellow-nosed field mouse and Chinchilloid silky-mouse. The Magellan tuco-tuco, an endemic rodent of subterranean habits that feeds on roots, is endangered too.

Like them, there are other endangered species such as the black-browed albatross, whose only inland colony in the world is in the Almirantazgo Sound, and the Southern river-otter (huillín), an otter that moves through the Fueguian waters.

Also three bat species inhabit in the park: the Chiloé little brown bat, the Lesser big-eared bat and the Red bat.

Some of the marine mammals that swim on the Almirantazgo Sound waters are carnivores, such as the Southern sea-otter and the leopard seal, together with the Southern elephant seal, the South American sea lion and South American fur seal. They feed on mollusks, fish and crabs. The occasional presence of Antarctic fur seal has also been registered.

There are seven species of cetaceans, such as the Peale’s dolphin and Commerson’s dolphin, which prowl the waters of Almirantazgo Sound, in front of Karukinka. Recently a couple of specimens of Sei whales and a juvenile Humpback whale have been sighted.

Birds

Ornithologists and bird lovers do not waste their time in Karukinka. Diverse species of birds, such as the black-necked swan, the Magellanic woodpecker, the Steamer-duck and a variety of birds of prey have in Karukinka their natural habitat, whose reduced population threats their persistence in the long term.

The most abundant species are the Rufous collared-sparrows, Thrush, White-crested Elaenia, the Sierra-finch the Austral parakeet and the Black-chinned Siskin. The Austral parakeet is the southernmost parrot in the world. It is recognized because it forms noisy and screaming flocks.

Within the lenga and ñirre forests, with a bit of luck one can see the Chilean Hawk, the Rufous-legged Owl, the Magellanic woodpecker, the Magellanic tapaculo, the Patagonian tyrant or the Rufous-tailed Hawk. The Magellanic woodpecker is the largest of the Woodpeckers in America and feeds out of worms, larvae and other insects that gets from old or rotting logs.

But there are several dozen birds flying over the park all the time, some of them with really funny and amusing names like the Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Magellanic Horned Owl or tucúquere in Spanish (an onomatopoeia of its chirp), Correndera pipt, Thorn-tailed Rayadito Short-eared Owl, White-bellied Seedsnipe, Dark-bellied Cinclodes, Grass wren, Dark-faced Ground-Tyrant, together with the imposing Andean Condors, Peregrine Falcons and Caracaras

Flora

In Karukinka 416 species of vascular plants (with roots, stems and leaves) have been recorded. Among them are six trees, all of great beauty; some of them bend down by the wind, some others upright and tall as cathedrals. These six species form the most stunning subantarctic forests of these latitudes: Southern beech, Antarctic beech, Evergreen beech, Winter’s bark, Chilean firebush and Magellan’s Mayten, which cover the mountains with emerald green, orange red and bright yellow. All of them are considered vulnerable in the Magallanes region. The Southern beech has a special protection, because it lives for over 300, straight up facing the strong Patagonian winds.

Around these forests, mainly in their edges, near peat bogs or on the way to the mountains, there are other species, as representative of Karukinka as of the entire Patagonia, such as the palomita one of the 49 native orchids that exist in Chile; or the chaura, a native shrub with white bell-shaped flowers and whose fruit is a white or pink berry; the Magellan murtilla; the sundew, a carnivorous plant that feeds on insects trapped by a sticky fluid secreted by the leaves and absorbs nutrients by secreting digestive juices; or arjona, a herb of the Andes, whose root was used as food by the Selk’nam.

Download here a PDF on Karukinka macro lichens. Download here information on the park’s Biodiversity.