A Canadian-bred attempt to kick off a South American fur industry has resulted in an environmental calamity.
In 1946, a Canadian pilot named Thomas Lamb flew 20 pairs of beavers to Tierra del Fuego, a southern archipelago shared by Argentina and Chile. That number was less than the 50 requested by the Argentine government, but the original order fell victim to timing.
“We only had three or four days of trapping when we got an inch of ice,” Lamb wrote in a letter to a friend. “I would watch the beavers walk over our trap. However, we got to 20 beavers when we could hardly get back to The Pas in October.
Since then, those 20 beavers have exploded into an estimated population of 200,000 that is threatening to spread even further into the continent.
“Patagonian ecosystems are not prepared for the kind of changes that beavers bring,” Chilean biologist Girogia Graells told the L.A. Times. “Magellenic forest regenerates from seed banks kept on the ground. So when an area is flooded, the seeds get covered by mud and water and die.”