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The Land of the Dog

These far ends of glaciers and fjords, that once enchanted Darwin and Chatwin, Theroux and Hudson, have become the setting for postapocalyptic sceneries in which packs of feral dogs not only prey the local fauna and the cattle but also attack people. These dogs’ fangs have contributed, as much as the crisis, to decimate the traditional sheep cattle sector both sides of the international border between Argentina and Chile across Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost land ever colonized by man.

20 July 2017

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Part one | The surroundings of Ranch "Rolito" are so beautiful that it is hard to think that death could be creeping over the place. Annie Luna, granddaughter of the founder of this rural settlement in 1927, is now 70 years old and has silver hair and a soothing gaze. But when she enters the kitchen, garnished with colorful flowers and imbued with the sweet scent of freshly baked Sconnes, she tosses off a comment that leaves us startled: "The sound of guts coming out of a guanaco is dreadful". Magic fades.

On a ramshackle quadracycle, Annie has just returned from her weekly visit to the furthest outpost of the ranch, located about 20 kilometers from the quarter where we are. "The ranch caretaker used to take us round a large and lovely paddock and there were many dead chulengos [the guanaco calf]. And then we saw them: there were about eight dogs. One white Husky, two black coats, another with short black hair and short tail, two dark brown; It was a mixture"She says.

The troupe even seemed friendly; after all, it was just a bunch of dogs in the middle of the field. But Annie says that they immediately threw themselves onto the ground and crept towards them rifle in hand. They never got to fire their guns because the pack probably had smelled them and escaped. "We never had them at shooting range" admits the old lady with pure disappointment. She did not find comfort in being able to save from a certain death a calf that the dogs had already separated from his mother. The fact that she could not kill any of the attackers filled her with distress.