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Iguazu Falls
Iguazu River
Iguazu National Park
Foz De Iguazu
National Park

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Iguazu National Park is the perfect spot for the traveler to breathe in the special aroma of the green foliage of the Misiones rainforest. And it is definitely the best place in the world to discover the wonder and beauty of the immense waterfalls, and their surroundings full of mystery and ecological implications.

Alongside the waterfalls at Iguazu, the extraordinary variety of species of animals and vegetation has become one of the outstanding features of the park. Wherever visitors go, they will be constantly astonished at the sight of birds, mammals, flowers and exuberant vegetation.

On the banks of the river and on the islands of the delta formed just before it plunges over the falls, trees have grown that need large amounts of water to develop. Among these, there are two particular communities which are unique to this part of Argentina: the woods of cupay, a tree with drooping leaves, copper-colored as buds, and the tufts of Paspalum lilloi, a graminea (grass-type) that grows among the rocks in the river.

Nature in Argentina
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In total, there are rather more than 90 species of tree flora within the park. Some of these trees are spectacular when they are in flower. One is the lapacho negro which, at the end of the winter and before its leaves emerge, becomes completely covered with pink blossom; also the lapacho amarillo and the ibirá pytá, with their yellow blossom; and a rainforest species of ceibo, with reddish-orange flowers, that has been declared the Argentine national flower.

In some sectors, there is a very special community: woods of palmito and palo rosa. The latter is a huge tree that can be over 40 meters tall and has a straight trunk of up to two meters in diameter. In its shade, and in that of other large trees, grow the palmitos, slender palm trees with trunks that end in a much sought-after edible heart (heart of palm), whose extraction causes the death of the plant.

The birds that are undoubtedly those most characteristic of the area are the swifts (the symbol of Iguazu National Park) which, with a show of great precision, fly through the gaps between the columns of falling water, to pose on the rock wall where they roost and even nest.

Towards midday, on the sunny parts of the paths, the visitor can see Tropidurus lizards, highly skilled in climbing trunks and rocks and agilely skimming up the walkways and stairs.

And in the area of the walkways, it is common to find groups of coati, which have become quite tame, and the great toucan, one of the five species found in the park.

Along the paths an unequalled range of butterflies can be seen, many of which are yellowish with black marks and designs. They are seen wherever pools have formed, because they feed on the salts dissolved in them.


Thanks to its wealth of biodiversity, Iguazu National Park attracts researchers from all over the world. The climate is that of a subtropical rainforest: humid. In summer, the thermometer records temperatures ranging between 25 and 45 degrees centigrade, on average. There is no well-defined dry season. The winter never gets harsh, and frosts are few and far between.

The Misiones rainforest is a prolongation of the Paranaense rainforest. At the central point of the 66,148 hectare Iguazu National Park lies the Waterfalls Area, where it is possible to gaze on the Iguazu Falls, especially the greatest of them all: the Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat).

In the heart of the rainforest lie the Moconá Falls: three kilometers of unending falls of up to 20 meters in height, with hundreds of falls wafting their spray in the breeze to form an absolutely unique spectacle.

And in the very heart of the Park is "La Selva" (the jungle), a real natural sanctuary. Many elements have combined to create this protected ecosystem. And along its paths a world can be discovered that remains hidden to the everyday citizen.

The rainforest usually makes the climate more temperate, reducing the extremes of heat, and acting as a shelter against the cold, to maintain the high ambient humidity. In this context it provides the right environment for the development of a great variety, some 2,000, of vegetable species, growing in a multiplicity of forms.

Mammals are distributed throughout all the strata of the vegetation, and many of them share features determined by their rainforest habitat: their water-friendly nature, and their ease in moving through the dense vegetation.

As far as fish are concerned, there is a marked difference between the upper and lower parts of the river. The falls have constituted a barrier between the two sectors for many thousands of years, and so they have evolved separately.

The fauna of the lower river, consisting of the surubí, pacú, sábalo and piranha, have never managed to reach the upper river, where chanchitas de colores, tarariras, dientudos and moncholos are entirely at home.


The park is a space where species in danger of extinction are protected. It shelters a natural heritage that includes:
  • More than 2,000 species of local flowers: leafy ferns, bromelias, orchids, palms and gigantic trees that support a great variety of climbing plants, which provide fruits that attract monkeys, coatis, deer or toucans.
  • 450 species of birds, which fly around naturally without shyness in the early hours of the morning and in the evening. Among them are toucans, urracas (jays), teros, parrots and the amazing swifts, with a species exclusive to the area of the Iguazu Falls.
  • 80 species of mammals, among them five varieties of felines that run, camouflaged, through the chiaroscuro of the rainforest. The ocelot (Felis pardalis), the yacutinga (Aburria jacuntinga) and the macuco (Tinamus solitarius) are also found.
  • And innumerable insects, among which are a great number of colored butterflies.


Natural monuments are the places, living species and plants, natural environments, and archeological and paleontology sites of singular scientific, esthetic or cultural importance, declared as such by special laws, and which are given absolute protection. They are inviolable. No activity can take place in them except guided tours that guarantee the principle of absolute intangibility, official inspections or scientific research permitted by the appropriate authority, and that necessary for their proper care.

Among these Natural Provincial Monuments we have:

Lobo Gargantilla
This is the largest otter in the world. It is also known as the "great river otter" or "giant otter". Some have been recorded up to 2.40 meters in length and with a weight of over 25 kilograms. It is a b, muscular animal. Of diurnal habits, it forms groups of up to nine individuals that, at mating time, separate into pairs. The brood consists of three babies, born in very deep caves excavated in the banks of the shore and among the vegetation. They feed mainly on fish, and complete their nutrition with water birds, small mammals and turtles.

Harpy Eagle
The most powerful eagle in the province. It lives in tropical and sub-tropical rainforests. It is a solitary hunter, and is considered to be one of the super-predators of the rainforest, together with the jaguar. It captures a range of prey with the help of its sharp claws and powerful beak. The male measures 70 centimeters long, and the female 90 centimeters, with a wingspan of nearly two meters. Its diet consists of mammals like the weasels, monkeys, anteaters and coatis.

This is one of the most curious animals in America. Also known as "Tamanduá guazú", "Yurumi', "Flag-Anteater" or "Great Anteater". Its body is robust and elongated, with a hard coat and a long tail. It frequents open areas with reeds, woody areas and the Misiones rainforest. To feed itself it has a toothless muzzle. Its tongue is 60 centimeters long and its diet is based mainly on ants, termites, bees and beetles. It is nocturnal in its habits.

Chorao (White-bellied Seed Eater)
The chorao lives in the tree strata of the Paranaense rainforest, especially in ParanaPine woods. It feeds on wild fruits and moves around in small bands or pairs, especially in the summer months. In winter they gather in the zone where the ParanaPine grows. It breeds in spring. The destruction of the rainforest, and the near disappearance of the ParanaPine woods mean that its survival is in some doubt.

Illiger's Macaw
A Misiones' species that must be considered in danger, since its numbers have seriously diminished during the past century. In 1959 it was seen daily around the Iguazu falls. Little more than ten years later it had practically disappeared. In 1980 it was photographed by chance in the lower Urugua-í, which is the last known record of it in the country, but this also encourages us to hope that it still exists in small numbers.

Brazilian Merganser
This is an extremely timid and diffident animal. The origin of its name is its long dentate beak that has a great number of "teeth". It frequents forest streams with clear water, among the marginal woods of mataojos (Pouteria salicifolia) and sarandis, where there is no permanent human presence. In winter (breeding time for the species) it feeds on some small fish (mojarras, morays, eels), water insects and mollusks that it captures without difficulty. It is the only representative of this singular genus in South America.

Zorro pitoco - Bush Dog
This wild dog-like canine takes its name "zorro pitoco" from its very short tail, as the Portuguese word "pitoco" has precisely this meaning. It lives in Paranaense type rainforests, near the water. In Argentina it is known only for four animals caught in the lower reaches of the Urugua-í stream. It is the only South American canine with gregarious habits, and hunts in packs of five to ten or more individuals. Its usual prey are the agouti or cutía, the paca, tapetis (forest rabbits), tatus (armadillos), rodents and birds, and even young deer.

Anta or tapir
This animal can measure up to 2.54 meters in length. Its weight ranges between 220 and 300 kilograms. Its elongated snout is very useful, since it is highly mobile and enables it to live in the forest and obtain its food from all kinds of vegetation (leaves, shoots, tender branches, grasses, fruits, etc.) and some smaller vertebrates or invertebrates. It is a good swimmer and likes to go down to drink water or refresh itself in the streams, and also chew the salty mud of the banks. It can breed at any time of year.

Red Howler Monkey (Carayá rojo)
This is a robust monkey with a long, prehensile tail. There are no differences between male and female, except when they are young. This species is associated with the eastern Misiones forests, especially in high, hill lands, and very often in ParanaPine woods. They are sociable and noisy. Their voices can be heard three kilometers away. They are mainly active at dusk. Their diet is based on leaves and fruits, such as cinnamon, the American timber tree, the pindo palm, ambay (cecropia tree), among others.

Jaguar (Yaguareté)
This is the largest feline in America, and symbol of the Misiones rainforest. Males can reach 2.50 meters in overall length and a weight of 140 kilograms. Secretive and solitary in habits, it moves through all the environments: forest, reeds, the banks of rivers and streams. It needs large hunting territories, and covers up to 11 kilometers per day. They give birth to one or two cubs every two years. In the forest it behaves as a nocturnal predator. Its most common prey are collared peccaries, coatis, deer, tapirs, capybaras, yacaré alligators, lesser anteaters, monkeys, pacas, fish, etc.

This is an imposing colossus of the Misiones rainforest and one of the most beautiful, especially when it reaches full maturity and develops its immense umbrella-shaped crown. Perennial in foliage, it reaches 40 meters in height and a diameter of 1.5 meters. It is a long-lived species with some trees passing 300 years in age.

Palo rosa
This magnificent tree is the tallest in the Misiones rainforest. There are examples with a height of 42 meters and 1.6 meters in diameter. Its crown is variable in shape and thickness, and is held up by relatively few thick, twisted branches that divide and divide again. This characteristic, and its great height, makes this giant easy to identify. Its distribution within Argentina is limited solely to the province of Misiones.


In a 20 hectare area of the rainforest, 6 kilometers from the city of Puerto Iguazu, on National Route Nº 12 and near the National Park, lies the Threatened Birds Recovery and Breeding Center called Güirá Ogá, which means "the Home of the Birds" in the Guaranilanguage. It was founded on August 23rd, 1997, with the objective of rescuing, recovering, rehabilitating, breeding and reintroducing bird species that are in danger of extinction in the Misiones rainforest.

The Misiones or "Paranaense" rainforest is one of the most threatened environments in Argentina and at the same time is the one with broadest biodiversity. At the beginning of the 20th century, this forest covered a large part of Brazil, Paraguay and almost all the province of Misiones. Nowadays, 5% remains in Brazil, 15% in Paraguay and 45% in Misiones.

However, thanks to a vast network of National and Provincial Parks as well as private protected areas, a Green Corridor - as the diagonal of forest that runs from Iguazu to below the Moconá falls is called - shelters the last remnants of this environment. It contains more than 1,400,000 hectares of jungle and the province of Misiones has the responsibility of preserving it for future generations.

Güirá Ogá has been built in the middle of the forest, taking advantage of spaces left by the great trees that have fallen down due to wind, storms or intense rains. This means that not a single tree has been felled during its construction. This demonstrates that mankind, when it makes up its mind to do so, can live in harmony and balance, without modifying or destroying the ecosystem of which it is part.

Birds which are part of the project
  • The big eagles of the Misiones rainforest have adapted to living in its dense heart. The undoubted queen of all birds is the Harpy Eagle, the best and most powerful bird of prey in the world.
  • Together with the Harpy, other smaller but very powerful eagles, such as the Ornate Hawk-Eagle, the Black Hawk-Eagle, the Black-and-White Hawk-Eagle and the Crested Eagle, form with other raptors the largest group of the species included in the project.
  • The parrots, the most attractive of which is the very large Red Macaw, which is probably extinct in Misiones nowadays, the Wine-Breasted Parrot, the Golden-Collared Macaw, the Red-Spectacled Parrot and others also form part of the project. Due to these birds' ability to talk (imitate speech), and their attractive colors, commercial hunting has decimated their populations, and today they are on the edge of extinction.
  • The guans include the Bare-Faced Curassow, a species practically extinct in Misiones; the Dusky-Legged Guan, and the Black-Fronted Piping Guan. These are species that, except for the first, used to abound in the Misiones rainforest. Today they survive only in the Iguazu National Park, the Urugua-í Provincial Park and other protected areas.
  • The Macuco is the biggest member of the partridge family: it can reach almost half a meter in height. More often heard than seen, it is the only partridge which habitually sleeps on the branches of trees. It has been hunted almost to extinction for its highly sought-after meat, and nowadays survives in nature reserves.
Its location within the Triple Border, and the traffic in fauna from neighboring countries into Argentina, means that a great number of wild species confiscated by the customs and security forces are attended in Güirá Ogá. Many animals are also hit by cars on the access road to Iguazu National Park and are referred to the center to be attended.

As there is no wild fauna rehabilitation center in the region, Güirá Ogá has to deal with all injured animals. They receive veterinary treatment, are rehabilitated and subsequently released in their natural habitat.

Those animals which have suffered irreparable injuries and cannot be return to their natural environment are passed on to zoos or institutions nominated by the Ministry of Ecology.

Thus, Güirá Ogá, without abandoning its original project of aiding threatened birds, looks after all those animals that have suffered the misfortune of crossing man's path.

Sparrow hawks, owls, toucans, Squirrel Cuckoos, Giant Anteaters, Crab-Eating Raccoons, Porcupines, Yacaré Alligators, etc., are only a few of the 220 animals that have had to be attended in three years of work and 150 of which up to date, thanks to the efforts of those who work daily at Güirá Ogá, have been able to return to their only real home: the rainforest of Misiones.

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