Exciting times in our fantastic World Cup for Wildlife! We’ll be comparing wildlife tourism in each of the countries taking part in the World Cup to see who will ultimately take the title Wildlife Tourism World Champions 2014!

Next up: Argentina v Iran

Check out the highlights and issues around wildlife tourism in each country below (all information taken from, then read our Match Report at the bottom to find out the score!

Argentina Wildlife – Highlights

Being the second largest country in South America, Argentina is home to a wide variety of wildlife including over 900 species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. Argentina also has hundreds of different bird species, making it a bird watcher’s paradise. Animals such as the jaguar, cougar, crocodile as well as many bird species live in the subtropical northern regions, while in the central grasslands, armadillos, deer, foxes, and falcons can be found. One of the most unspoilt areas in Argentina remains the Esteros del Ibera, the second largest freshwater wetland on the planet and the largest protected area in the country. Further south, the Patagonian coast is popular for its marine wildlife (dolphins, orcas). A major tourist attraction is the Peninsula Valdes, which offers the chance to see the southern right whales as they use the natural harbours in this area as a resting and breeding ground.

Country Specific Issues

El Toreo de la Vincha (Bullfighting of the Headband)

Bullfighting is banned in Argentina but there are still some festivals that involve ‘mock bullfighting’. Each August, thousands of tourists and locals head to the town of Casabindo to witness the spectacle of ‘El Toreo de la Vincha’. The bull is not killed in this festival, instead ‘matadors’ have to grab a headband from the bull’s horns. Although the bull is not killed, the event invariably does cause a lot of stress to the bulls involved. You can read more about festivals involving animals here.

Dove Shooting

Some agencies are offering hunting trips to Argentina to shoot doves and advertising them by saying that you can shoot over 1000 cartridges per day. There is no close season for the eared dove in the country, so countless numbers of these birds of peace are killed in the name of sport each year. You can read more about dove shooting on our partner page at the League Against Cruel Sports, or about hunting here.

Iran Wildlife – Highlights

With different climatic and ecological areas (woodlands, desert lowlands, arid mountains), Iran boasts a unique variety of fauna. It is home to panthers, leopards, wolves, jackals, gazelles, wild boars, bears, foxes and deer. Iran is also the last remaining refuge for the critically endangered Asiatic cheetah. Sadly, over the last century, the country has lost two other cat species: the Asiatic lion and Caspian tiger. The last 30 years of revolution, war and natural disasters have had a devastating effect, and many mammals are facing a similar fate. Bird species have also been affected, but the most common remain the eagles, storks, pheasants, partridges and falcons.

Country Specific Issues

Protected Areas

Iran has a hugely diverse territory from lush forest to hot dry desert, thus housing a high level of biodiversity. This is however under threat with 81 species on the verge of extinction, with a further 56 under threat from habitat destruction and hunting. Due to the 1979 revolution, much of Iran’s previously thriving wildlife came under threat by widespread slaughter. Khosh Yeilagh Protected Area was once considered the best cheetah habitat in Asia. The area was devastated of prey species and the last Iranian cheetahs were pushed out to the remote desert areas around Dasht-e-Kavir – now considered to house a restricted population of 50-60 cheetahs. Persian leopards have also been affected similarly and are still threatened by widespread hunting and poaching.


Over several months a private Iranian zoo sought increased tourist visitors through feeding live donkeys to their captive lions. The captive lions took up to an hour to kill the donkeys, as they do not have the hunting experience, unlike wild lions that would kill victims in a matter of minutes. The videos taken by visitors were widely circulated as animal abuse – you can see one here, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. Let us know if you see or hear of similar cases of zoo or sanctuary animal abuse by contacting us here.

Match Report

Iran were scoreless in their first game, and are going against a strong Argentina. With hundreds of species of mammals and birds, not to mention the marine wildlife off the coast of Patagonia, Argentina is hard to beat! On the other hand, Iran’s diverse climate and territory is home to some pretty unique fauna (think panthers and leopards).

Final Score

Argentina 3 v 1 Iran

Don’t miss the next game…