Torres Del Paine has a diverse array of wildlife, with many species unique to the region. EcoCamp Patagonia supports CONAF’s preservation of local wildlife and contributes to flora and fauna conservation by making its structures as low impact as possible and using raised wooden walkways to allow animals to pass underneath and flora to continue growing.
EcoCamp donates to Refugio Animal Cascada, a nature sanctuary in Cajon del Maipo mountain valley close to Santiago. The sanctuary’s founder and coordinator is environmental steward Nani Astorga, co-founder of EcoCamp Patagonia. The refuge provides a rehabilitation centre for native animals and contributes to environmental education in the local community. To date the centre has received over 200 animals, from birds and mammals to reptiles and amphibians.
- Torres del Paine has four different types of vegetation:
- Patagonian steppe - Flora includes desert shrubs and tuft grasses resistant to harsh winds & weather
- Pre-Andean Shrubland - Home to evergreen shrubs like the edible calafate
- Magellanic Deciduous forest - Deciduous forest lining the park’s gorges, home to Lenga trees and also Antarctic Beech trees
- Andean Desert - Species tolerant to low temperatures and high precipitation
Types of flora include:
Gaultheria mucronata (Chaura)
An evergreen shrub native to Southern Chile and Argentina, known by the name Chaura. Reaches a maximum height of 2 meters and grows near Southern Beech (Nothofagus) forests. Has edible plum-like fruit which is sometimes used as an ornament.
Embothrium coccineum (Notro)
Known as the Chilean Firetree. Small evergreen tree which blooms every spring with deep red flowers. Grows up to 15m tall and can reach 20cm in diameter, with bark famous for its beauty and ease to work with.
Misodrendon punctulatum (Farol Chino)
Grows as mistletoe on various species of Southern Beeches (Nothofagus). Colour changes from green to yellow to reddish brown throughout its life cycle.
Berberis microphylla (Calafate)
The Calafate shrub is a typical evergreen found in clearings in forest steppe and Southern Beech (Nothofagus) trees. It has yellow flowers and edible fruit which are small bittersweet blueberries, used for making jam and liquor. Symbol of Patagonia, with legends stating that those who eat Calafate return to Patagonia at some point in their life.
Nothofagus pumilio (Lenga)
The Lenga tree is a deciduous member of the Southern Beech (Nothofagus) family which can reach up to 30m in height. It grows in abundance in southern Chile and its wood is used for construction due to its strength and durability.
Nothofagus antártica (Ñirre)
Known as the Antarctic Beech, this deciduous tree is native to southern Chile and Argentina and is one of the southernmost trees on earth. It grows up to 20m high (substantially less in difficult climate conditions) and is also found on the North Pacific Coast of the US and in the UK.
Nothofagus betuloides (Coigue)
A member of the Southern Beech (Nothofagus) family, this evergreen tree reaches 25m in height and is good at tolerating its native Patagonian climate. Also grows in Scotland and its wood is used for furniture.
Chiliotrichum diffusum (Mata Verde)
Mata Verde is found in clearings in Southern Beech (Nothofagus) forests, forming dense thicket on the steppe. Its flowers have antiseptic properties and were used medicinally by the Patagonian natives.
Usnea barabata (Barba de Viejo)
Known as Old Man’s Beard. A specie of Lichen which grows on bark and branches on Southern Beeches (Nothofagus). Calvatia Ciathiformis (hongo de polvera) A puffball mushroom with a fleshy texture and cracked surface. Edible when young, smooth and purple, but matures to become pear shaped and darker in colour.
Cyttaria hookeri (Dihueñe Mohoso)
Parasites which appear on Southern Beech (Nothofagus) branches and can lead to the breaking of branches or stems in strong wind. Certain species of Cyttaria are used in gastronomy.
In Torres del Paine there are 15 species of mammals and the most commonly seen are the guanaco (Lama Guanicoe) and the Chilla and Culpeo foxes. The huemul (Andean deer) and the puma (cougar) are less often sighted. Birdlife is abundant, with over 115 species recorded including the Andean condor with its wingspan of up to 3.2 metres.
Friendly camelids native to South America who migrate throughout the park in large groups, except for the lonely males who have been ousted from the group by a dominant male during breeding season. They are 1.20m in height and 110-120kg in weight and spit then they feel threatened. Exist in abundance and their young (chulengos) are born 11 months after breeding season and stay with the herd for approximately one year.
Red fox (Culpeo) - The largest fox in Chile, leads a solitary life and hunts at night. Can grow up to 120cm, including tail, and weighs up to 12kg. The male provides food for the mother and cubs.
Grey fox (Chilla) - Measures between 80-90cm and weighs up to 4kg. Both parents look after cubs.
South Andean Deer
Known as Huemul, these deer live in small groups in high mountain forests and are the national symbol of Chile. They can reach 85cm tall and weigh up to 100kg. They feed mainly on herbs and scrubs and are currently listed as an endangered specie, with their conservation a high priority in the park.
Officially known as Humbolt’s hog-nosed skunk, the Patagonian Skunk is around 60cm and weighs 2kg. A solitary, nocturnal animal, the skunk lives in open, grassy areas and is famous, like all other skunks, for the odor it emits when feeling threatened.
Also known as the cougar, panther or mountain lion, the golden-coated puma lives a solitary life and is rarely seen by tourists in the park in summer although numbers are very slowly increasing. They hunt at night and grow up to 270cm and males weigh up to 90kg while females reach 60kg.
Also known as Ñandu, these flightless birds look similar to ostrich and spread out their wings when running. The type which live on the Patagonian Steppe are known as Lesser Rhea and they eat local plants and insects.
The Andean condor has a wingspan of up to 3.2m and can fly at altitudes over 4,500m at speeds of up to 56kph. They nest in rocks high in the mountains and circle overhead during the day searching for carrion to feast on. Both males and females are black and males have a red or black crest.
Living in the grassy plains, the Chilean Dotteral has tawny camouflaged feathers. It nests on the ground and gives birth to up to four chicks in spring.
Black-chested Buzzard Eagle
Also known as the Black-Chested Hawk or Chilean Blue Eagle, this buzzard has a powerful build and long, broad wings. It lives at high altitudes in mountain ranges with shrubland and Southern Beech trees.
These large swans can measure up to 140cm and weigh up to 6.7kg (females slightly less) with a wingspan of up to 177cm. They have white bodies, black necks and a grey bill with some red. In winter they migrate north to warmer climates.
Pinker than the Greater Flamingo but not as pink as the Caribbean Flamingo, the Chilean Flamingo has grey legs and a half black beak. They can grow up to 130cm and both male and female share the role of incubating the sole egg laid by the female.
The Magellanic woodpecker lives in the Chilean Andes and is one of the largest woodpeckers in the world. They live in Southern Beech forests and males are particularly noticeable due to their red head and crest. Both males and females are largely black while their young are a browner colour.
Large and noisy, the Ringed Kingfisher lives throughout the Americas from Texas to Torres del Paine. They have blueish-grey feathers with white markings and an orange-red underside. They live in wooded areas, often near lakes.
Patagonian Sierra Finch
The Sierra Finch, known as Cometocino, build nests in the thorny Calafate bushes to protect their offspring from predators. Found in forest areas, they are a bright yellow and grey colour.
These wild Magellanic geese, known as Caiquenes, are found on the Patagonian plains. They nest near water and sleep in lakes, safe from predators. They are between 60-70cm in size, weighing approximately 3kg. Males are white and females are brown.