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May 22, 2019

Ocelots of the Sierra Gorda

Image captured by our Camera Traps
Image captured by our Camera Traps


(Leopardus pardalis)

Ocelot populations extend from southwestern United States to Argentina. They are twice the size of the average house cat, weighing 24 – 35 pounds and reaching 35 – 44 inches from head to tail. Ernest Thompson Seton described the ocelot's coat as "the most wonderful tangle of stripes, bars, chains, spots, dots and smudges ... which look as though they were put on as the animal ran by."

Protection Status

The ocelot is considered Endangered in Mexico (Norma Oficial Mexicana 059 2010) and its numbers are declining across its entire range.

Status in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve

The ocelots play an active and dynamic part in the health of the ecosystems of the Sierra Gorda. Yet these beautiful cats have already been eliminated in most of their range by human actions such as land use change, logging, and poaching. Like other endangered species, they cannot raise their voice.

We do our best to protect them by providing them with safe habitat. Our camera traps have confirmed the presence of ocelots in the cloud and temperate forests that make up our network of private nature reserves for strict conservation, showing that our conservation measures are effective. 

Help us protect your home, it's up to us to face reality and return that which we have taken from them.

Habits and Habitat

Ocelots inhabit many habitats, from mangroves to cloud forests—the fundamental features of their habitat are sufficient vegetation cover and high prey density. With these features present, ocelots are very adaptable, even to human disturbance. Unlike many cats, they are excellent swimmers.

Ocelots are solitary animals. Ocelot territories vary greatly between regions, depending on latitude and rainfall. They range from 1.4 – 17.8 sq. mi. for males and .31 – 5.79 sq. mi. for females. Female territories rarely overlap while male territories often includes those of two or three females. Nevertheless, social interaction between sexes is minimal.

Camera traps show that ocelots deposit scat in communal sites, called latrines. Because ocelots are solitary animals, this suggests that the latrines serve a social function.

Gestation lasts 79-83 days and litters contain 1-3 kittens. Females give birth in dens located in dense vegetation. Newborns open their eyes at 15-18 days, walk at 3 weeks, and leave the den to hunt at 4-6 weeks. They remain with their mother for 1.5 – 2 years before heading out to establish their own territory. The inter birth period is thought to be 2 years, coinciding with the age of independence.

These felines are resourceful hunters, preying on rabbits, rodents, armadillos, opossums, fish, frogs, birds, and insects. They have been observed following scent trails to find prey. They may also wait for prey at a certain location for 30-60 minutes, moving to a difference location if unsuccessful. When looking for prey, they walk at an approximate speed of 33m/h (0.2mph).


The greatest threat to ocelots is habitat destruction, fragmentation, and logging, which causes loss of vegetation cover and prey. Other threats include poaching for the fur or pet trade and retaliatory killings for hunting poultry.

The ocelot population was severely threatened between the 1960s and 80s when their pelts were highly valued in the international fur trade, with over 566,000 ocelot pelts sold. Luckily, protection measures and import bans were implemented, making trade illegal. Poaching continues to be a threat.

Conservation in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve

Through our widespread community environmental education program in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, we teach the importance of respecting wild animals, encouraging residents to avoid hunting and disturbing their habitats. We also fight development and illegal logging in their territories.

The most effective measure we take is purchasing land for strict conservation. This allows us to provide this magnificent species with a safe habitat. We choose properties strategically in order to create biological corridors for ocelots and other wild animals, increasing connectivity and assuring gene flow. Your donation supports the management of these private reserves, covering park ranger salaries, equipment, and transportation.

In the face of the Sixth Extinction, we must protect their habitat and not allow human activity to drive them to extinction.


Sunquist, M.; Sunquist, F. (2002). "Ocelot Leopardus pardalis (Linnaeus, 1758)". Wild Cats of the World. Chicago, US: University of Chicago Press. pp. 120–129. ISBN 978-0-226-77999-7.

May 7, 2019

Little Dragon of the Sierra Madre

The Little Dragon of the Sierra Madre
The Little Dragon of the Sierra Madre

The Bromeliad Arboreal Alligator Lizard

(Abronia taeniata)

Endemic to the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range in Mexico, this little known species of arboreal lizard has short legs, a prehensile tail (a tail that has adapted to be able to hold or grasp objects), white and black scales, and can reach up to 14 cm in length. Locally, it is known as the “Dragoncito de la Sierra Madre” or “Little Dragon of the Sierra Madre.” Without a doubt, the name fits!

Unfortunately, it has lost much of its population due to deforestation and logging.


Protection Status:

The Bromeliad Arboreal Alligator Lizard is classified as “Vulnerable” in the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species and has special protection status according to Mexico’s Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources.

Brutal deforestation of temperate and cloud forests to create corn fields and paddocks from Tamaulipas to Hidalgo has destroyed large parts of the lizard’s habitat and much of its population.

As its habitat continues to be destroyed, the future of this species is worrisome. It is time to act now in order to prevent the extinction of the Bromeliad Arboreal Alligator Lizard. The protection of its habitat in situ is the most effective measure to protect what remains of its population.


Habitats and Habits:

The Dragoncito de la Sierra Madre is an arboreal species, meaning that they spend most of their lives in the forest tree canopy of temperate and cloud forests. They are inconspicuous and very little is known about them.

This lizard is viviparous, meaning that it develops the embryo of its young inside its body. It does not lay eggs but rather, gives live birth.


Status in the Sierra Gorda:

The bromeliad arboreal alligator lizard has been registered in temperate and cloud forests in eastern parts of the Sierra Gorda where they occasionally descend from the forest canopy to the ground. We have registered the Dragoncito both within our private nature reserves as well as in sites where clandestine logging is taking place or sites that have been recently cleared. Because their habitats are being actively destroyed, they are at great risk of extinction.

Most of our records of the Lizard come from a cloud forest that has an abundance of bromeliads (Tillandsia imperialis), another threatened species. In this way, the conservation of one threatened species benefits the conservation of another.


Conservation actions in the Sierra Gorda:

By managing parts of the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve as sites for strict conservation, Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda ensures safe feeding and nesting sites for the Bromeliad Arboreal Alligator Tree Lizard in several of the private nature reserves. We continually educate local communities about the importance of conservation, work to prevent forest fires, and implement payments for ecosystem services to ensure a biological corridor between private reserves.

The global population of the Dragoncito de la Madre Oriental is at risk. This species is a unique natural heritage of Mexico. Please support us financially and help us to conserve its habitat



 Canseco-Márquez, L. & Mendoza-Quijano, F. 2007. Abronia taeniataThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2007.


Apr 11, 2019

Protecting Unique Magnolias of the Sierra Gorda

Magnolia pedrazae, named after our photographer!
Magnolia pedrazae, named after our photographer!

Magnolia rzedowskiana, Magnolia pedrazae

The Magnolia rzedowskiana and Magnolia pedrazae are micro-endemic to the Sierra Gorda Mountain Range and critically endangered. 90% of their global population can be found in our private nature reserves.

These two specieswere discovered thanks to the photography of Roberto Pedraza Ruiz, Head of the Lands for Conservation Program. If not for our network of private nature reserves and your donations, the Magnolia rzedowskiana and Magnolia pedrazae would have disappeared before we had even realized that they exist.

Discovery of the Magnolia rzedowskiana and the Magnolia pedrazae:

For Roberto Pedraza Ruiz, photography has been an essential tool for documenting the biological wealth of the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve and communicating the imperative to protect it. Occasionally, it has also served to identify new species.

In 2013, Roberto uploaded photographs of a local species of magnolias to the ARKive project, an online “Ark” that contains images of endangered species. Dr. José Antonio Vázquez, a botanist from the Universidad de Guadalajara, found these images and, because something about the magnolias seemed strange to him, requested more photographs. Roberto made several trips to photograph the magnolias’ flowers and fruits, and after a long process, it was determined that the magnolias were, in fact, two new species!

In 2015, Dr. Vázquez named one of the two new species Magnolia rzedowskiana in honor of Dr. Jerzy Rzedowski, Mexico’s preeminent botanist, and the second Magnolia pedrazae, in honor of Roberto Pedraza Ruiz.

About Magnolias:

Magnolias are extremely special trees. They are an ancient genus, living fossils, and the first flowering plants on Earth. Because they appeared before bees did, their flowers are theorized to have evolved to encourage pollination by beetles.  They have survived many geological events, including ice ages, mountain formation, and continental drift, all of which have determined their distribution on the planet.

Thank you for helping us protect these unique magnolia species. We are all extremely grateful for your continued support.

Cloud forests, home to these beautiful plants
Cloud forests, home to these beautiful plants
Scientific article describing Magnolia pedrazae
Scientific article describing Magnolia pedrazae
Magnolia rzedowskiana, unique to the Sierra Gorda
Magnolia rzedowskiana, unique to the Sierra Gorda

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