The 10 Most Surprising Animals in Chile

Meet 10 animals of the Chilean fauna that are emblematic of this South American country, from the imposing condor to the small monito del monte.
The 10 Most Surprising Animals in Chile
Georgelin Espinoza Medina

Reviewed and approved by the biologist Georgelin Espinoza Medina.

Written by Editorial Team

Last update: 03 October, 2023

The Pacific coast and the high mountains of the Andes are some of the unique ecosystems inhabited by the most amazing animals in Chile. In fact, this South American country is made up of three geographical zones: Continental, insular, and Antarctic territory.

In the following article, you’ll discover the characteristics, habitat, and threats faced by species such as the blue whale, certain kinds of penguins, and even endemic lizards of this region. Don’t miss it!

1. The huemul, the emblematic deer of the Andes

The huemul in its natural habitat.
Hippocamelus bisulcus Hippocamelus isn’t only one of the most iconic animals of the country, but also a national symbol. Credit: Gonzalo Garin/Shutterstock.

The huemul (Hippocamelus bisulcus) is one of the most representative animals of the Chilean Patagonia. This native deer of the Andes is known for its majesty and its importance as a national symbol. It’s related to the taruca (Hippocamelus antisensis), however, they’re two different species.

It has a thick, dense brown coat that helps it survive in the cold winters of the high mountains.

Its most notable adaptation is its ability to live in steep, rocky terrain. It can even be found up to 10,000 meters above sea level, according to data provided by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Unfortunately, its habitat is threatened by deforestation and human expansion. However, multiple conservation programs have been implemented to protect this species.

2. The pudú, the small deer of the forests

A pudú in the forest.
This small animal usually inhabits the forests of Chile, where, thanks to its compact size, it handles itself very well. Credit: Rob Jansen/Shutterstock.

The pudú (Pudu puda) is the second smallest deer in the world and is found in the forests of southern Chile. It’s an adorable animal that measures a little over a foot tall at the withers.

Their compact size allows them to move easily through dense forest vegetation. Pudús are also excellent swimmers and can escape predators by wading into nearby bodies of water.

Deforestation and poaching have caused a significant decline in their population. They’re now protected by a recovery, conservation, and management plan in Chile.

3. The Condor, the lord of the skies

The profile of a condor.
This is one of the most majestic birds in Chile and Latin America, with a wingspan of up to 10.5. Credit: Reisegraf/iStockphoto.

The condor (Vultur gryphus) is one of Chile’s most imposing and emblematic birds. With a wingspan of up to 10.5 feet, according to data provided by Animal Diversity Web. It’s considered the largest flying bird in the Americas and one of the largest in the world.

The condor is a master of flight, taking advantage of rising currents of warm air to soar.

These birds serve a vital ecological function by cleaning up the carcasses of dead animals, which helps prevent the spread of disease. Despite their status as a symbol of Chilean wildlife, condors have faced threats, such as illegal hunting and loss of habitat.

4. The Humboldt penguin, the graceful swimmer

A Humbolt penguin walking on a rock.
The animals in Chile are so varied that you can find animals that live in cold climates, such as Humboldt penguins. Credit: Matthieu Gallet/Shutterstock.

The Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus humboldti) is a species found on the coasts of Chile. They’re charming swimming birds with distinctive black and white plumage.

They’re also famous for their ability to dive for food.

They’re sociable and form colonies where they breed. However, the survival of this species is threatened by the following human practices and phenomena:

Conservation efforts are focused on protecting their marine habitats and ensuring food availability.

5. The quirquincho, the armored defender

A brown quirquincho walking on the ground.
The quirquincho is a species of armadillo that inhabits Chile and other countries on the continent. Credit: Alamy.

The quirquincho (Chaetophractus vellerosus) is an armadillo from Chile that’s also found in Argentina, Paraguay, and Bolivia. This is indicated by its distribution records, reported in a study published in the journal Mammalian Species.

These curious animals have bony plates on their backs that form a protective armor against predators.

Their diet is omnivorous, as they eat insects and other invertebrates, as well as carrion and plant material. All this, through the use of their long sticky tongue. Although their armor is effective against many predators, their habitat is threatened by intensive agriculture and urbanization.

6. The blue whale, the giant of the oceans

A blue whale near the surface of the ocean.
It’s possible to see blue whales in Chile during the summer. Credit: Eco2drew/iStockphoto.

The blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is the largest animal that has ever existed on our planet. These marine giants can reach lengths of up to 100 feet and weigh more than 150 tons.

Chile offers unique opportunities to spot these majestic creatures during their migration along the coast, which can be recorded as far north as the island of Chiloé.

Despite their imposing size, blue whales are threatened by illegal whaling. Conservation efforts are focused on protecting feeding and breeding areas.

7. The golden lizard, a species native to Chile

A golden lizard is among the animals of Chile.
Liolaemus aureum is distinguished by the yellow color on the lower flanks. Credit: Raúl Ignacio Díaz, Paula Maldonado, and Diego Demangel.

The golden lizard (Liolaemus aureum) is found in the Andes Mountains, right on the northwestern slope of the Copahue volcano. This is highlighted in a Bulletin of the National Museum of Natural History of Chile.

The main difference between this species and other types of lizards common in the country is its scales. The golden lizard lacks a color pattern on its back. In addition, it has a bright yellow color on the lower flanks.

6. The guanaco, a relative of the llama

A guanaco is among the animals of Chile.
The guanaco is among the animals native to countries such as Chile and Peru. It’s a very close relative of the llama. Credit: Ionov Vitaly/Shutterstock.

The guanaco (Lama guanicoe) is a wild relative of the llama, inhabiting the Andean regions of Chile. These elegant herbivores are well adapted to the extreme conditions of the high mountains. They’re also known for their speed and agility.

Guanacos form social groups and move in herds in search of pastures.

Their wool is highly valued and used in the production of textiles. However, illegal hunting and habitat degradation threaten the survival of this species.

8. The culpeo, cunning inhabitant of Patagonia

A culpeo looking out at an arid field.
Human activities have endangered the culpeo. In response, the authorities have initiated plans to protect it. Credit: Giulio Ercolani/Shutterstock.

The culpeo (Lycalopex culpaeus) is a canid native to Chile and one of the country’s most abundant carnivorous animals. They’re foxes with thick, fluffy fur that allows them to survive in cold climates.

They’re very adaptable animals and can be found in diverse habitats, from rural areas to mountainous regions. The culpeo fox plays an important role in controlling rodents and other small mammal populations.

10. The monito del monte, a marsupial of Chile

El monito del bosque en su hábitat natural: bosques templados húmedos de Chile.
Dromiciops gliroides is one of the few marsupials that inhabit Chilean territory. Credit: Rob Jansen/Shutterstock.

The monito del monte (Dromiciops gliroides), also known as the colocolo opossum, is a unique marsupial found in the forests of southern Chile. Although its appearance is similar to that of a mouse, this small animal has a marsupial pouch in which it carries and protects its young.

According to a publication by Acta Oecologica, it plays an important role in seed dispersal and is considered a “living fossil” due to its evolutionary antiquity. The destruction of forest habitat represents a significant threat to its survival.

The animals of Chile need protection

Chile is a treasure trove of biodiversity, and these ten amazing animals are just a small sample of the richness of its fauna. From the majestic deer of the Andes to the marsupials of the southern forests, each species plays a vital role in Chile’s ecosystems. It’s essential to recognize the importance of their conservation and work together to protect them.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

The contents of My Animals are written for informational purposes. They can't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment from a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.