A vast sea of undulating tall grasses that’s only interrupted by the horizon, the pampas make up the central part of Argentina and are home to wild horses, llamas, foxes and Rhea birds which are related to the African ostrich.
Spanning from the foothills of the Andes Mountains to the west, they reach all the way to the Atlantic coast to the east. The pampas have a varied range of climates from the dry zone in the west, is largely barren, with great saline areas, brackish streams, and sandy deserts. The humid zone in the east, a much smaller area that includes part of Buenos Aires province, is temperate and well watered and is the economic heart of the nation and the country’s most-populated area.
The pampas make up a great habitat for some very endangered bird species like the Saffron-cowled blackbird and the Buff-breasted sandpiper, which migrate annually from as far north as Canada or Alaska where they lay their eggs and reproduce.
The name comes from a Quechua word meaning “flat surface.” The Pampas have a gradual downward slope from northwest to southeast, from approximately 1,640 feet (500 metres) above sea level at Mendoza to 66 feet (20 metres) at Buenos Aires. Apart from a few sierras in the northwest and south, most of the region appears perfectly flat.
Making up a quarter of Argentina, the pampas has one of the most fertile lands in the world as well as much of the country’s population. This has proven to be a disaster both culturally and ecologically. Once the largest and best known habitat in Argentina, the pampas is now the most endangered habitat on Earth.
The introduction of domesticated cattle, poaching and intensive chemical agriculture have degraded the land beyond recognition and have driven away the big carnivores like the puma and pampas cat. Some steps are being taken to preserve this natural wonder. The Ernesto Tornquist Park covers an area of about 6880 ha. (17,000 acres), which is the best preserved part of the whole 328,000 sq. km. (126,641 sq. miles) pampas habitat.