A tiny Twilight Beast in a world of giants


A walk in the temperate rainforests of Chile is like a journey into the deep past: a world of ferns, giant conifers and lichens enshrouded in fog and inhabited by tiny mammals that survived the age of giants. The pudú (Pudu puda) lives in this dense green world of thick foliage and misty air. This minuscule deer is the world’s smallest―it is only a bit larger than a small dog.

A teeny tiny Pudu fawn. A teeny tiny Pudu fawn at Katheryn Pingel’s rehabilitation center, Ensenada Llaquihue Province, Chile. (Image by Rodrigo Fernandez from here).

The Mapuche people have inhabited the forests and coasts of austral South America for millennia, and their language ―mapudungun or “the language of the Earth”― is where the pudú’s name comes from.  In Mapuche lore, the pudú is guided by sparrows, whose songs alert it of nearby predators. Myth is often the manifestation of deep memory:…

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