Updated: Oct 15
Where and What is Patagonia?
If you are a lover of rare wildlife and nature, you should explore Patagonia. If you are a hiker and love outdoor activities, you should visit Patagonia. If you want to experience a seemingly never-ending expanse of breathtaking wilderness and meet diverse people, then you must travel across Patagonia. Patagonia is unique in many respects!
With a surface area of approximately 308,882 square miles (800,000 square Kms), the region known as Patagonia lies in the Southern tip of South America. This region includes parts of both Chile and Argentina. On the Chilean side, it begins South of the city of Puerto Montt. In Argentina, it starts at South of the Colorado River. It then ends in Tierra del Fuego, where Cape Horn is located. Patagonia is also one of the most sparsely populated regions in the world. The landscape comprises of the Southern section of the Andes Mountains with lakes, fjords, and temperate rainforests. It also boasts of sprawling deserts, towering glaciers, gigantic tablelands and humongous steppes. It is indeed nature’s paradise on earth, teeming with breathtaking landscape and unique flora and fauna!
What are some animals found in Patagonia?
Some of the impressive species are the camel-like guanaco , South American cougar, Patagonian fox, Patagonian hog-nosed skunk , and Magellanic tuco-tuco (a subterranean rodent). Some of these animals are not found anywhere else on our planet!
What are some of the birds found in Patagonia?
The list includes superb avians with some of them very rare or not found anywhere else on earth such as, the Southern Crested Caracara, Magellanic Woodpecker Magellanic Penguin, Lesser Horned Owl, Long-tailed Meadowlark, Darwin’s Rhea, Hooded Grebe ,Chilean Flamingo, Austral Parakeet and Andean Condor.
What about the flowers and vegetation of Patagonia?
A few examples of Patagonia’s endemic lovely flowers include the Paramela, Lady's slipper ,Streaked maiden, Crimson spire , White dog orchid, Calafate Canelo, and Hummingbird fuchsia . The long, narrow strip of Patagonia’s Western border supports vegetation that mirrors what is found in the adjacent cordillera - primarily deciduous and coniferous forests. The vast tableland region is divided into Northern and Southern zones, each of which has its own characteristic vegetation. The larger Northern steppe zone extends South to about latitude 46° South. In the North are scrub forests, which give way farther South to open bushland of widely spaced thickets, between about 3 to 7 feet high (0.9-2.1 m). Grasses flourish in the sandy areas, while salt-tolerant grasses and shrubs predominate in the salt flats. The Southern, more arid zone extends south of 46° South. Here the vegetation is low and considerably more sparse and needs almost no water.
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The Mysterious Plant of Patagonia: Ilareta or Yareta
The llareta (also spelled as Yareta) is a member of a family which includes parsley, carrots, and fennel. But it is a desert plant and grows high up in Chile's extraordinary mountains. It grows very slowly, only about a little over a centimeter a year!
The surface of llareta is green. It is hard and consists of a dense collection of tens of thousands of flowering buds at the ends of long stems. The plant is extremely dry and can be used as fuel. Found throughout the Andes, the llareta has been used to light fires at campsites and even used as fuel for locomotives in the past.
Challenges facing Patagonia
One of the biggest issues across Patagonia is logging and forest clearing. Population expansion means more people need more space to live and more food to survive.
The worst affected species because of human expansion are the Andean Condor, South American Puma, huemul deer, puma, guanaco, Southern river otter, and geese.
Oil exploration and transportation add to the problem immensely as well. Oil is found mainly in the coastal regions. Hundreds of oil wells are drilled, and petroleum loading ports are built. This leads to huge oil spills which become extremely expensive and difficult to clean up. This has taken a toll on wildlife, especially, of penguins and other marine creatures.
Overfishing is yet another booming industry and is ever expanding. Species effected are Magellanic penguins, Southern right whales, South American Sea lions, Southern elephant seals, and several species of cormorants. The sea life here depends entirely on the Malvinas or the Falklands currents, which brings with it humongous quantities of life-giving plankton, invertebrates, and fish which feed marine mammals and birds. Commercial fishing activities now threaten the health of the entire food chain.
What can we do to help the species of Patagonia?
We can do our part in protecting the wildlife and the natural wilderness of Patagonia.
Here are a few examples:
· When traveling to Pantagonia, make sure to watch any animal, bird, amphibian, or reptile from a distance using binoculars or a camera. This ensures that both us (humans) and the wildlife are safe.
· Do not touch or pluck the plants or flowers even though it might be very tempting to do so!
· About one fifth of Torres del Paine has been destroyed by fire. Make sure that the park guidelines and rules are strictly followed. Camp in the designated areas only and do not litter.
· Recycle and do not leave anything behind!
· Donate to the Wildlife Conservation Society. This society is working hard to preserve Patagonia. Their website is: wcs.org.
Donate to UCLA Spark at spark.ucla.edu. They are a team of UCLA Environmental Science students committed to restoring Patagonia, often referred to as the 8th natural wonder of the world.
Did You Know?
· The one and only Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, is one of the most enchanting part of Patagonia. With soaring granite peaks, dense forests, sparkling crystalline lakes with mirror-like reflections, and jaw-dropping mountains, it has become a symbol of Patagonia, at its wildest and most ravishing.
· A cordillera is an extensive chain and/or network system of mountain ranges.