Areas of grassland or pampas dominate much of South America’s lowland terrain, including a huge area of Argentina. And while these fertile plains might not be as visually impressive as the majestic, towering magnificence of the mountains that cleave through the continent, they provide an important habitat for the unique Argentina wildlife that lives in abundance here.
Argentina wildlife to look out for
The central grasslands in Argentina have traditionally been settled by gauchos: nomadic horsemen and cow herders who have used these rich lands for grazing cattle or cultivated them for crops. Although overgrazing and the introduction of fertilizers have threatened some of the region’s native species, a huge range of unique animals still persist in this environment. Here are some of the most unique and spectacular to look out for.
The largest canid in South America, the maned wolf stands at over three-feet tall and is similar in appearance to the red fox, with a golden-red coat and long, pointed muzzle. It’s perfectly adapted to its pampas habitat as it has developed long, thin legs which allow it to see over the top of tall grass and has earned it the nickname “fox on stilts”.
Although it’s the most common of all South American cats, you’ll be forgiven for never having heard of it. But the Geoffroy’s cat actually inhabits a large area of South America, from the Andes mountains to Chaco shrub and pampas. If you’re lucky enough to ever see one, you will know: it’s identifiable by its lavish coat, the color of which ranges depending upon the habitat, but is normally silvery grey in the Argentine pampas and patterned with black spots and stripes around the tail area.
The pampas cat also populates a vast part of South America, including Peru, Brazil and Bolivia, but sightings sometimes go unreported due to its similarity of appearance with a domestic cat. Again, depending on where you see it, its coloring will vary between a yellowish white to a brown or light grey. Its coat can also have spots or streaks and this animal is known locally as “gato pajero” or “grass coat” in reference to its habitat.
A normally nocturnal animal, the pampas fox is gray in colour and inhabits grasslands throughout Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. In areas with few human inhabitants, they can be seen during the day and are most prolific on the northern edge of Patagonia. Ranked as “of least concern” on the IUCN Nature Red List it has successfully adapted to changes to its habitat introduced by human activities, such as farming.
Unlike the other Argentina wildlife on this list, your visit to South America will probably include spying this creature. Found in small herds across the pampas and further into the mountains of Patagonia, the guanaco is the largest wild member of the camelid family in South America, which also includes llamas, vicuña and alpacas. Guanaco are distinctive for their elegant stature and pale brown coat with white fur on their stomachs.
Similar to an ostrich, the Darwin’s or Lesser Rhea is a distinctive example of the range of Argentina wildlife in the central pampas. They are unable to fly, but can run at impressive speeds of up to 35-mph. You’ll typically spot them in groups of five to 30 creatures, with a male accompanied by several females – although don’t be surprised if they don’t hang around for long!