Argentina is very rich in animal species, with diverse landscapes and climates varying dramatically from the North to the South. It has dry deserts in the North, the Andes mountains to the West, the Atlantic Ocean to the East, dense rainforest and wetlands in the North East, pampas grasslands in the center, and frozen Patagonia in the South. It’s safe to say that there is bound to be a great array of different animals spread over the county. Here is a list of the Top 10 Animals you must see during your trip to Argentina.
1. Magellanic Penguin
The Magellanic penguin is a South American penguin, breeding in coastal Argentina. Around 900,000 Magellanic penguin couples migrate back from Brazil to Argentina every year, of which over 100,000 make themselves comfortable in Bahía Bustamante, which is not only a great place to spot the penguins but a lovely place to go for a beach holiday. Here, mates build nests and take turns to protect their one or two eggs before they hatch. Watching the baby and teen penguins waddle and shuffle along the beach is one of the funniest and most captivating sights you’ll spot in the wild. You can also see these flightless birds at Punta Entrada in Santa Cruz and Ushuaia in the Tierra del Fuego.
2. Pink Fairy Armadillo
The Pink Fairy Armadillo is the world’s smallest species of armadillo, being approximately six inches long. The burrowing, hard-shelled and rose-colored little creature lives in the scrubby grasslands of central Argentina, as well as in the sandy plains and dunes in the north near Salta. This tiny armadillo only tends to come out at night and has a diet that is mainly composed of insects, worms, snails and various plants.
Guanacos are relatives to llamas and alpacas, with light or dark brown coloring, gray faces, and not quite so shaggy fur. They are concentrated at the very tip of Argentina, in the Tierra del Fuego. They live in packs formed of a single alpha male and 10 females with their kids and are known for being able to survive even the harshest conditions, including South America’s famously rain-deprived Atacama desert, and the windy snowstorms in the south.
There is only one place in Argentina to really get a good sighting of whales, and this is around the Valdes Peninsula and the small town of Puerto Madryn in the very south. Whale-watching season in Argentina usually runs from June to December, and at some points in the season, it is even possible to wander along the shoreline and see young whale mothers with their calves only twenty feet away in the water. The main whale species seen there is the Southern Right Whale which can grow up to 20 meters in length and can weigh up to 50 tonnes in weight. The other main species there are resident pods of around 30 orcas which slide up the beach in order to hunt the seals that come to the Valdes shores in the mating season at the start of August and September.
The great spotted cat is native to South America and can still be glimpsed in parts of northern Argentina, although reportedly there are as few as 50 left in the area. The main reasons for this are poachers and land developers. Jaguars are the largest feline in the entire American continent and the third largest in the world. They like to live in places with an abundant supply of water, such as rainforests or swamps, and they are known to be great swimmers. They feed by stalking and hunting their prey and using their incredibly powerful bite to kill. Although it’s unlikely you’ll see a jaguar in Argentina, conservation efforts in the Ibera Wetlands have reintroduced this big cat and hope to re-establish a population over the next few decades.
6. Commerson’s Dolphin
Commerson’s Dolphins, also known as skunk dolphins or panda dolphins, are lively, black-and-white dolphins who love to swim alongside boats, leaping and spinning over and under waves, seeming to put on a show just for you. Watching them from a boat may just be the most amazing and rewarding thing you do on your trip. However, their favorite pass-time is eating crabs. The Commerson’s Dolphin is found inshore in various inlets in Argentina including Puerto Desado, in the Strait of Magellan and around the Tierra del Fuego and near the Falkland Islands. It is estimated that there are approximately 4,000 of these dolphins in the Strait of Magellan.
7. Patagonian Hare/Mara
The Patagonian Hare, or Patagonian Mara as it is also known, looks like a combination of a rabbit and a deer, with brown fur, long legs, and hoof-like feet. They can grow up to 80cm (2.6ft) long and weigh up to 16kg (35lb). To complicate things even further, it is actually a species of rodent from the same family as a guinea pig. This fascinating creature is native to the grassy areas of central and northern Argentina. They live in communal dens where up to 20 pairs will raise their babies together.
The capybara is the largest rodent in the world, and are found along waterways throughout the marshes, swamps, and lakes of South America. They are also a close relative to guinea pigs, and therefore have similarities to the Patagonian Hare mentioned above, as they too have brown fur (although theirs is slightly more reddish) and are a similar size. Capybaras also have webbed toes for gliding efficiently through water and weigh significantly more at 66kg (46lb). They live in groups of around 20 and their main predators include anacondas, pumas, and jaguars.
There are three types of flamingo that breed in South America. The Andean, Chilean and James’s. Flamingos live together in colonies, mainly in the salt flats and lakes of the Andes of Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. They feed on algae and plankton and they can use glands in their nostrils to expunge excess salt from saline water. All three species of flamingo can be seen in Argentina, particularly in places such as Salinas Grandes, Argentina’s largest salt flats located in the Jujuy and Salta provinces. The Andean flamingo is an incredibly rare bird. They are reportedly the only species of flamingo with only three toes and yellow legs. Unfortunately, they are now considered a vulnerable species due to loss of natural habitat, so count yourself lucky if you get to see one!
10. Andean Condor
The Andean condor is the largest flying bird in the world due to its extensive wingspan that can reach a width of 3.3 meters (11ft) and can weigh up to 15kg (33lbs). Because of their extreme weight, the Andean Condors need a little help to keep them in the air, so they prefer to live in windy areas where they glide on the air currents with little effort. You can spot these regal creatures almost anywhere in the Andes mountain range to the west of Argentina and other windy areas such as near the coast with strong ocean breezes and deserts with strong thermal air currents.
If you’re an animal lover, South America is definitely the right place to be, as all of the countries boast incredible wildlife and an array of different animals. In Argentina, you’ll never run out of places to visit, sights to see and animal species to spot, so get booking and prepare to be blown away by the beauty of Argentina and it’s incredible animal kingdom.