Friday, 1 August 2014

Region of Magellan's Natural Monuments

The Region of Magellan has an area of 132.000 km2 being 50% of the area wild protected area, which means 70.000 km2 are protected by the SNAPE, the national system of wild protected areas, which protects12 wild areas in the region: 6 national parks, 3 natural monuments and 3 natural reserves.

Natural monument is an reduced natural region, structure or phenomenon, is unique and has special geological, botanical, water and other characteristics that often have high visitor value.
The area should contain one or more features of outstanding significance, archaeological or natural sites which have heritage significance or/and associated with indigenous people.

The Monumento Natural Cueva del Milodon (Milodon Cave Natural Monument) is a set of 6 caves, rock shelters and a giant rock named the devil´s chair which is 35m high and is a natural view of the area. Its name comes from popular culture and is based on its armchair form which was first said to be the milodon seat but later became known as the devil´s chair. The monument is located at the base of Beñitez hill and surrounded by Nothofagus forest and very rich with Patagonian fauna and flora.

The monument is of scientific and historical importance as in 1895 three Germany explorers of Patagonia found into the main cave a large, seemingly fresh piece of skin of an unidentified animal. In 1896 the Swedish scientific Otto Nordensholdt visited the cave and later recognised that the skin belonged to Milodon darwini, an extinct herbivorous animal survived until about 5000 years ago, also investigations confirmed the existence of other animal such as the Hippidion sp known as the dwarf horse, the sabre-toothed tiger or Smilodon and the litoptern Macrauchenia.

Also the site has a great archaeological value as it housed the primitive Patagonian man, hunters belonged to the paleoindian culture. Archaeologists found diverse elements of habitation at the caves and human remains dated as early as 6000 BC.

The milodon cave is the largest of the 6 caves, the entrance is 29m high and 80m wide, the cave is 200m deep and descends about 20m from the entrance level.
High above their heads the visitors see hundreds of large stalactites. It is believed that the caves were formed by the erosion of a wave of mud that involved the basin of Puerto Natales during progressive withdrawal of huge ice sheets that filled the basin during the last glacial period.

The administration of the site provides services such as water, public conveniences, mobile phone signal, radio communication and privately-owned cafe and restaurant. Also an information centre and pic-nic areas  can be visited and a trekking path that connects practically all the tourist attractions for this natural monument, its grade of difficulty is low and very attractive.

The Monumento Natural Los Pinguinos (The Penguins Natural Monument) is located in the middle of Strait of Magellan, 22 miles northeast of Punta Arenas.
The monument consists of two islands, Magdalena and Marta, which together form an area of 97 hectares, of these, Magdalena Island has 87 hectares.
The site was created in 22 August 1966 as a tourist park and classified as natural monument in 1982. Although the site attracts thousands of tourists each year it is a wild area that stands for the protection and conservation of Magellanic penguins and King cormorant (Imperial shag).
The site can be visited between October-March when the penguins and other species of birds and mammals come to the islands for reproduction. The visitors can walk through a 800m footpath observing the species in their natural habitat.

In Magdalena Island about 69.000 pairs of  Magellanic penguins (Stephenicus magallanicus) make their nests around the rocks or burrows in the soil. In Marta Island there is an important colony of King cormorant (Phalacrocorax atriceps) and also Southern sea lion (Otaria flavencens) and South American fur seal (Arctocephalus australis).

The main attraction of the site are without doubt the Magellanic penguins which are 60-70cm tall and weight between 2.7-4.8kg.
They look for the same partner each year and can recognise each other for their noisy call.
They arrive to the island in September, the males come first. In October they court and mate and one egg is laid on the nest, although two eggs have been seen in some nests. Male and female share the duties of breeding which last for 42 days and both care for the chicks until end of January when the chicks starting their first trips to the sea. Finally, end of March they depart from the island in large flocks looking for warmth waters during the Patagonian winter.

Another tourist attraction in Magdalena Island is the light house, an historical patrimony built between 1901-1902. Its 13,5m high provides an amazing panoramic sight of the area.
The light house has an environmental interpretation centre with interesting information about the history of the Strait of Magellan and the ecological richness of the island.

The Monumento Natural Laguna de los Cisnes (The Swan Lake Natural Monument), located in Tierra del Fuego Island, has an area of 25.3 hectares which corresponds to the 7 inner islands of the Swan lake which is the natural habitat of a varied species of sea birds. Among the observed species include the black-necked swan (Cygnus melancony), white colour swan (Coscoroba coscoroba), flamenco (Phoenicopterus chilenses), caiquén (Chloephaga picta), cauquén (Chloephaga poliocephada), carancho (Poliborus plancus) and several species of ducks.

There is no administratively facilities in the site because it stands mainly for the protection of the nest area.

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