There was some news this week out of South America regarding camelids indigenous to the Chilean island, Tierra del Fuego. The species is called guanacos, and are relatives of llamas and alpacas. Previously, scientists considered their only predator to be puma cats, but a disturbing photograph began to change scientific opinion.
In the new photograph, a culpeo fox can be seen running alongside a guanaco, bearing its teeth and I inferred growling as well. It seems to most in the world of science that this culpeo fox would very much like to eat the guanaco. But the guanaco has other thoughts entirely. Scientists read the guanaco’s lips as saying, “Oh hell no…”
Which is interesting because previous to the incident this week, most in the sphere of scientific pursuit only knew guanacos to flee in the face of a predator. A reminder that change is one of the few constants in our nature… this guanaco did not run away making alarm calls. He lead the culpeo fox to his family of guanacos, and the adults cornered the little fox and kicked it.
This co-operative, active group defense saved the guanaco from being dinner for a month in the underground den of the sharp-toothed culpeo fox. Perhaps this group of adult guanacos grew up playing Halo together. Their story means a great deal to me. We are all Americans, on both continents, and where I work, the affectionate name given co-workers from El Salvador is guanaco. And recently, there have been attacks in the neighborhood.
What we need to do when under attack, instead of merely fleeing-as-fast-as-we-can, is to trick the culpeo, red in tooth and sharp in claw, back to the herd. There the strong adults can kick the foxes and teach lessons, daily if necessary. Recently we have had a resurgence of Amazonian river fish on the menu at work, including pacu and pintado. The tide of interchange is high between North and South.
But I do not compare myself to a guanaco, llama or alpaca. Clearly, if I was an animal in South America right now, I would not be one of those. Perhaps I would be a river dolphin, majestic, pink and swimming through the roots of rain forest trees. Most likely, I would be a pudú. Pudús are preyed upon by eagles, owls, foxes and small cats, but maintain a complex system of paths that allow them to easily escape, find food, and rest.