Friday, 11 March 2011

Hunting the Iconic Fauna

Parques National come with conservation, protection and an engorged budget for roadside signage, or so it would seem. Hunting and the dumping of rubbish are crimes, a fact of which we are repeatedly reminded of every few kilometres. We are also requested to respect the ‘cruising animales’. A row of differing species are pictogram out of carved wood. It’s a row of the icons, a row to be ticked off. Some we can recognise, others we’ve seen but are unable to name. A visit to the park’s visitor information centre offers no enlightenment. First up is a ‘rhea’: tick, one running away into the bush a few kilometres back. Next, a grouse-like road-running bird, that with a Wiki search, suggest that it might be a ‘caracara’. It’s odd the lengths contributors will go with words to describe an item, when a picture would be such a simple solution. We claim a positive sighting on a few occasions. The third we take to be either a vicuña or a guanaco. It’s a question of size, both being members of the camelids. We got quite excited about these two, they stood on a sand hill ridge for some time, unperturbed by our presence until a car came along. Big tick, they’re high up on the Americas icon stakes, alongside pumas, condors and gauchos. The fourth is a rodent with a scaled tail, nocturnal, so all sightings are road kill. The fox is the easiest to identify, and as the cubs are just starting to leave the dens, we get to see quite a few. The last is an unidentified silhouette, that could be an armadillo and, if so, is in a living form remains un-ticked.

It’s one of the advantages, one of the joys of cycle travel, moving so slowly there’s the opportunity for the pull over for a curiosity or the sudden appearance at the side of the road. So for this sign, we have four hits, one miss and a question mark. Unfortunately cars seem to have a habit of hitting them all.