Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

The Unique Birthing Ritual of Guanacos


Guanacos have a unique problem when it comes to reproducing. They must gather in November at exactly the right time of day to give birth so the newborn can dry out on its own. A guanaco’s too-short tongue prevents it from licking its newborn clean.


- [Narrator] No story of Torres Del Paine is complete without that of the herds of guanacos.

A sentinel aims his nose into the wind.

Despite being very prolific, with probably half a million of them in South America, guanacos have a unique problem and it makes them adapt in a very specific way.

They gather at exactly the right time of day at exactly the right month to start a ritual, to give birth.

It happens a few hours before midday and a few after in November in the heat each year.

(guanaco grunting) They fine-tuned this as an adaptation because guanacos have tongues that are just too short to extend beyond their lips so they simply cannot lick a newborn clean.

Birthing is perfectly timed so he can dry out on his own.

It's a male chulengo and he has just 10 minutes to stand.

Only one in four of them will make it to their first year through the gauntlet of pumas that live here.

It's a tense few hours for the herd.

But the little chulengo makes the cutoff time, albeit not terribly elegantly, but it's a good start to his next 25 years.


PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.