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Patagonia Bookshelf

Ostrich Tales — an Anthology
Observations of Darwin's rhea in southern Patagonia

"The Wilds of Patagonia", Carl Skottsberg, London 1911
The explorer Skottsberg visited Punta Arenas in 1908. By this time, the sale of native artifacts to ships' passengers had become well established. The most desirable articles were guanaco mantles: ostriches were also represented among these wares.

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Only very occasionally is the guanaco killed for the sake of its meat; on the whole the older animals are seldom hunted, but the younger more often. Their skin is very much appreciated, and is used for the celebrated quillangos (mantles), which every traveller who passes Punta Arenas or any of the small ports on the Atlantic is able to procure. Even if he has not time to go on shore he may be pretty sure they will come on board; the deck is soon carpeted with products in the way of fur from Patagonia guanaco and fox, puma and ostrich, and the valuable otter from the Channels. And every passenger steamer brings with it quite a collection of skins and imitation Indian curiosities, all sold at advanced prices for the occasion. A common guanaco mantle measures ten to eleven square feet, and is made of from thirteen to fifteen young animals. In Punta Arenas it costs fifty to eighty pesos, according to the exchange, for in reality one has to pay in English pounds and shillings. Another kind of mantle is made only from the soft skin of the head and legs of the full-grown guanaco; it requires a very great number of animals, and prices run high; I very seldom saw these offered for sale. The beginning of December is the season for the guanaco-hunters; they swarm in certain parts of the Andine pampas, and for the most part do a thriving business. We saw their fires on the north slope of the Fenix valley. I have heard there are some game-laws for guanacos and ostriches, but they are probably ignored, for it is hardly possible to maintain any effective control in the vast uninhabited territories.

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