Argentina, the second largest country in South America, is bordered by Chile to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Spanish missionaries came to Argentina in the early 16th century, conquered indigenous groups, and declared the land property of Spain. It remained under Spain’s rule until 1816 when Argentina won independence. In 1865 a group of Welsh immigrants arrived and settled in the Chubut valley, a region that is part of Patagonia.
Patagonia covers a large portion of land, encompassing the southern tip of South America. Spanning Argentina and Chile, the region includes mountains, deserts, grasslands, and steppe, and borders both the Pacific Ocean and South Atlantic Oceans. Five Argentine provinces are in Patagonia: Neuquén, Río Negro, Santa Cruz, Tierra del Fuego, and Chubut.
Province of Chubut
The Province of Chubut stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the base of the Andes mountain range. Chubut was created as a national territory in 1884 and became a province in 1955. Sheep ranching and wool production was a leading industry in 19th and early 20th century, reaching its peak during World War II. In the 21st century petroleum became the dominant industry, seconded by fisheries, aluminum production, and an expanding tourism industry.
Tourists come to Chubut to see wildlife, enjoy beaches, and learn about the region’s history and culture. Trelew and Puerto Madryn airports serve as gateways to main wildlife reserves of Península Valdés, San Jorge Gulf, and Punta Tombo.
Punta Tombo is a one-hour drive south of Trelew, located at the base of a small peninsula that juts 3.5 km out into the Atlantic Ocean. Punta Tombo is home to guanacos, foxes, armadillos, rheas, and a diverse seabird colony. Over 200,000 breeding pairs of Magellanic penguins breed at Punta Tombo, making it the largest Magellanic penguin colony in the world. The arid landscape also supports sheep and sheep ranchers, such as the La Regina family. In the 1960s the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Province of Chubut Bureau of Tourism began working together to protect the wildlife of the region. In 1979 Luis and Francisco La Regina donated 210 hectares of their sheep-ranching land to form what is now the Punta Tombo Provincial Reserve.
In 1982 WCS and Dr. Boersma launched the Penguin Project at Punta Tombo to determine how many penguins bred at Punta Tombo and to follow the lives of individual penguins. Over 30 years later, Dr. Boersma, WCS, the Global Penguin Society (GPS), the Province of Chubut, and the La Regina family work together to protect and conserve Punta Tombo’s Magellanic penguins. In 2008 the La Regina family gave the Province of Chubut land for an interpretive center. The number of visitors increased from less than 100 annual visitors in the 1960s to more than 100,000 yearly visitors today. Visitors to Punta Tombo have an opportunity to see and learn about penguins so that when they return home, they can act as ambassadors for the conservation of penguins and their habitat. They can stay informed about penguin research through the Penguin Sentinels website and through our partners at the Global Penguin Society and Wildlife Conservation Society.
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