Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Coastal Steppe Project, Patagonia

Estancia la Esperanza

This is a completed project.
Steppe is the characteristic habitat of most of Patagonia, and encompasses a vast area, including the coastal steppe of the Valdes Peninsula, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Coastal Steppe Project is successfully completed and is now a designated wildlife refuge: Estancia la Esperanza.

Project aim

The project aimed to create a permanent wildlife reserve to protect many of the terrestrial and marine species found on the coastal steppe. After completing the reserve, the long term aim is now to manage it sustainably in a way to benefit both the people and wildlife of Patagonia.


Fundación Patagonia Natural »

Other projects in Argentina:

Misiones Rainforest Corridor »

How WLT is helping

Taking the opportunity of the sale of several ranches (estancias) after the collapse of the wool trade, WLT initially raised funds to pay off the loan borrowed for the purchase of Ranch of Hopes. Since the project's completion WLT has continued to fund management costs including; wardening the reserve, installation of solar panels and refurbishment of existing buildings.

WLT continues to help FPN to identify sustainable income streams that will ensure the long term protection of the reserve.

Funding needed

This is a successfully completed project, however, Fundación Patagonia Natural still needs funds for ongoing reserve management. If you would like to make a donation to this project

Donate to the Action Fund »

  • Specify "Patagonian Coastal Steppe Project" in the comments box to earmark your donation for Patagonia.
Guanaco in Patagonia.
Guanacos (Lama guanicoe) roam wild and on the reserve and are characteristic of Patagonian habitat. Photo © Lee Dingain.

Biodiversity of Coastal Steppe

The virtually treeless terrain of Patagonia sweeps down to a coastline rich in marine life and since the creation of the reserve the list of mammals and birds recorded has increased dramatically.

Marine species:

  • Southern Right Whales (Eubalaena australis) it is estimated that 1,500 individuals (25% of the world population) spend much of their year in the waters around the neighbouring Valdes Peninsula.
  • Magellanic Penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus), Elephant Seals (Mirounga leonina) and South American Sea Lions (Otaria flavescens) congregate and breed on shore.
  • Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) who can be seen coming to shore in search of their Sea Lion prey.This is one of only a few locations where this behaviour occurs.

Terrestrial species include many threatened and endemic species:

  • Herds of Guanacos (Lama guanicoe), wild relatives of Llamas now roam freely on the reserve
  • The elusive Puma (Puma concolor)
  • Geoffroy's Cat (Oncifelis geoffroyi)
  • Copelo Fox and Gray Fox (Pseudalopex griseus)
  • Maras or Patagonia hares (Dolichotis patagonum)
  • Rhea (Rhea pennata)

Learn more about animals in our reserves »

Threats to Coastal Steppe

At the start of this project land was changing hands rapidly amongst talks of tourism developments on the coast. The Valdes Peninsula is an increasingly popular tourist destination and so was highlighted a priority for conservation. Previously most conservation efforts had gone into protecting the better known pampas habitats, rainforests of the Andes and maritime habitats and none of the 3,000km of coastal steppe were protected.

Patagonian Steppe is an important habitat for many threatened and endemic species. Most of it is at risk of desertification through overgrazing, and many areas show signs of serious erosion.

The Ranch of Hopes, view of the coastline.
The Ranch of Hopes (Estancia la Esperanza) is situated on the Valdez Peninsular. Photo © Mark Gruin

The reserve

Estancia la Esperanza (Ranch of Hopes)

Total size supported by WLT: Over 15,000 acres (6,000 hectares)

Located in the buffer zone of the Valdes Peninsular the reserve is officially designated as a wildlife reserve by the provincial government. Work on the reserve is varied and includes hosting research students to complete research projects such as Guanaco monitoring. FPN also runs a volunteer programme and the original farmhouses were converted into research accommodation. The reserve is run as environmentally friendly as possible and uses both solar and wind power. FPN hope to develop their ecotourism and plans are underway to create a tourist tent camp.

See a map of the reserve »

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