Península Valdés in Patagonia is a site of global significance for the conservation of marine mammals. It is home to an important breeding population of the endangered southern right whale as well as important breeding populations of southern elephant seals and southern sea lions. The orcas in this area have developed a unique hunting strategy to adapt to local coastal conditions.
Statement of Significance
The World Heritage Committee inscribed Peninsula Valdés on the World Heritage List under criterion (x).
Peninsula Valdés contains very important and significant natural habitats for the in-situ conservation of several threatened species of outstanding universal value, and specifically its globally important concentration of breeding southern right whales, which is an endangered species. It is also important because of the breeding populations of southern elephant seals and southern sea lions. The area exhibits an exceptional example of adaptation of hunting techniques by the orca to the local coastal conditions.
Península Valdés in the Argentinean province of Chubut is a 4,000 km2 promontory, protruding 100 km eastwards into the South Atlantic. The 400 km shoreline includes a series of gulfs, rocky cliffs, shallow bays and lagoons with extensive mudflats, sandy and pebble beaches, coastal sand dunes and small islands.
The shores and waters around the Peninsula is a special place for marine mammals. A population of southern right whales uses the protected waters of for mating and calving. The southern elephant seal has its most northern colony here. It reaches peak numbers of over 1,000 individuals and is the only colony in the world reported to be on the increase.
The southern sea lion also breeds here in large numbers.
The local population of orcas has used the beaches of Valdésto to develop a unique and spectacular approach to hunting. The orcas race into the shallow surf to snatch sea lions or young elephant seals, often throwing themselves onto the beach in the process.
The site has a high diversity of birds. The peninsula's intertidal mudflats and coastal lagoons are important staging sites for migratory shorebirds The Magellanic penguin is the most numerous with almost 40,000 active nests distributed among five different colonies.
Terrestrial mammals are also abundant. Large herds of guanaco can be seen throughout the peninsula and the mara, an Argentinean endemic, which is endangered in other parts of the country, is found here. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC