Argentina’s habitat range is enormous, perhaps more than any other country in the world. Its north–south distance exceeds that from London to Moscow. It descends from the Americas’ highest point—22,800-foot (6,900-m) Mount Aconcagua—to one of the world’s lowest, the Valdez Peninsula salt flats, at 180 feet (55 m) below sea level. And it is thinly settled—most of Argentina’s 33 million people live in and around Buenos Aires.
This is reflected in its wildlife. With relatively few persons on 1.1 million square miles (2.5 million km2) of Pampas grasslands, snow-capped Andes volcanoes, cloud and subtropical forest, Chaco woodlands, and arid windblown Patagonia— which itself is a half-million square miles (1.3 million km2) fronting on 2,000 miles (3,200 km) of coastline— there’s room for huge numbers and diversity of wildlife in the country’s 18 national parks and numerous private and provincial reserves.
Furry guanacos and vicuñas, cousins of camels, are here, grazing as shown in earliest cave paintings on the Pinturas River. So are giant anteaters with tonguesmore than a foot (30 cm) long; great flightless rheas, New World ostriches; shy, nocturnal upsidedown tree sloths; rare maned wolves; pumas; jaguars; monkeys; hundreds of rare, colorful birds from green-backed firecrown hummingbirds to tall, red-legged maguari storks; monstrous fourton, 20-foot-long (6+-m) elephant seals; right whales up to 40 feet (12+ m) long weighing more than 30 tons; and a million Magellanic penguins.
Some of the greatest variety and abundance of birds and marine mammals in the world occurs where cold, nutrient-rich Falkland currents sweep against the arid steppe country of Patagonia. Outstanding among reserves is a 60-mile-long (100-km) headland surrounded by sea, connected to the mainland by the narrowest of necks—VALDEZ PENINSULA—and nearby PUNTA TOMBO.
More about the Reserves in Argentina
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