New book catalogs rich biodiversity in Chile’s central coast

Award-winning illustrator Andrés Jullian will release Expedición al litoral central next month, highlighting Chile’s flora and fauna between Rapel and Tunquén.

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Andrés Jullian devoted two years to snapping photos of more than 4,000 birds, flowers, trees, insects, reptiles and mammals, both on land and in the ocean. Then, the award-winning illustrator turned some of those shots into the hand-drawn prints found in his latest book, Expedición al litoral central (“Expedition to the Central Coast”).

“The book’s goal is to show off the zone’s natural beauty and help develop protection for many of these places,” Jullian said.

José Luis Brito, at the Museum of Natural Sciences in San Antonio, applauds Jullian’s efforts. According to Brito – who has spent 27 years rescuing and rehabilitating local fauna – many of the region’s species remain completely undetected, inhabiting ravines and gullies that are hard for humans to access.

“The güiña, the yaca, the gato colocolo, for example… we know about them, because we find them killed by hunters,” Brito said. The güiña is a small native cat, somewhat like a miniature leopard (click here to watch a Youtube video of a güiña hunting in southern Chile). The yaca, also known as the mouse opossum, is a tiny marsupial with gigantic ears. And the gato colocolo is a native wildcat, somewhat larger than the güiña, with striking fur patterns.

Brito says that the region highlighted in Jullian’s book is one of Chile’s richest pockets of biodiversity, but one of the most affected by clearing native forest to make way for eucalyptus plantations.

Native sclerophyll forest survives in the ravines and canyons of the central coast, including such species ascanelo and palma chilena, as well as the giant nalca and copihues, Chile’s national flower. These ravines, says Brito, literally form biological corridors for native species.

Brito collaborated with Jullian during the book’s research, helping provide a list of the region’s vertebrates.

“There are 48 wetlands in the region, which have enormous concentrations of birds, like the Coscoraba swan… the white-necked heron, wild ducks, etc. The wetlands are ecosystems that host the greatest quantity of biodiversity on the continent: about 67 percent of species.”

Jullian is a member and collaborator of many Chilean organizations that fight to protect native flora and fauna, including Expedición a Chile, Universidad Católica de Chile, Fundación Claudio Gay, and Fundación Chile, among others.