WCS Argentina

San Guillermo Landscape

At a lofty height of 3,000-6,000 m (approximately 10,000-20,000 feet) above sea level, the stunning San Guillermo landscape combines extensive puna plateaus, breathtaking rugged peaks, and a unique and easy to observe fauna.  It encompasses a national park, a provincial reserve, and a Biosphere Reserve, and lies within the largest of the non-forested Last Wild Places of South America, as identified by the WCS Landscape Ecology Program. 

This Wild Place is six and a half million hectares of one of the most sparsely populated areas in the Southern Cone.  San Guillermo is where the Andean puna meets the Patagonian steppe—home to the spectacular wildlife of both ecosystems.  As in the African savannas, huge herds of native ungulates—the vicuña of the puna and the guanaco of the steppe—congregate on the high plains of San Guillermo, interspersed with smaller groups of ostrich-like Darwin’s rheas, and native predators—the puma and culpeo—seek their prey unheeding of the human observer, while scavengers like the Andean condor soar above in search of their latest kills.  In 2003 our WCS team discovered the elusive Andean cat here, one of the rarest cats in the world.  The San Guillermo Landscape represents the largest combined protected area within the Andean cat’s historic range, and may provide one of the best opportunities for long term conservation of this highly endangered species.  The landscape may also be inhabited by remnant populations of the short-tailed chinchilla, not documented in the wild in Argentina for the last 50 years.


Conservation Challenges

Despite outstanding biological attributes and official protected status for much of its extent, the San Guillermo landscape has received little conservation attention and is threatened by a growing and powerful gold mining industry, illegal hunting, and exotic species. Two large, open-pit gold mines have been opened in the San Guillermo Biosphere Reserve, and their impact on the region’s hydrology, glaciers, wildlife, and habitats could be dramatic but is not well-studied.


Conservation Approach

WCS sponsored a stakeholders’ workshop in 2004 to develop consensus on the conservation targets and human activities that could conflict with those targets. We have carried out and helped to sponsor research in the landscape since 2004, which has been used to develop policy and strategies for more effective wildlife conservation, and assisted the federal Parks Service and the provincial government in the development of management plans for protected areas.


WCS Argentina
Amenabar 1595 piso 2 oficina 19, C1426AKC CABA

Key Staff

Andrés Novaro
Director of Patagonian and Andean Steppe Program
All San Guillermo Landscape Staff >>

Featured Partners

Administración de Parques Nacionales