Jun 3, 2019

The Singing Quails of the Sierra Gorda

Wikicommons attribution: Amado Demesa
Wikicommons attribution: Amado Demesa

Singing Quail

(Dactylortyx thoracicus)

The Singing Quail, found in Mexico, Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras has a small tail, intricately patterned brown plumage, and a short, ruffled crest. Males have an orange throat and face while females are lighter in color, with a grey or off-white throat and face.

Protection Status

Although the singing quail is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, it is endangered in Mexico (Norma Oficial Mexicana NOM-059-SEMARNAT -2010).

Status in the Sierra Gorda

The voice of the singing quail, ringing out at dawn and dusk, continues to be part of the fabric of life of the forests of the Sierra Gorda. It occupies an important niche in these forests as the base of the food chain, and is vital to the forest for its role in sifting through and breaking up the leaf litter. Without its presence, the forests and jungles of the Sierra Gorda would be very different. Yet even here, its population is at risk due to excessive deforestation, hunting, and grazing.

Habits and Habitat

The habitat of the singing quail includes subtropical, cloud, and temperate forests. It is distributed discontinuously from Jalisco to the highlands of Chiapas and Central America to Honduras. On the Gulf slope, it is found in the Sierra Madre Oriental from Tamaulipas, to the south, including Sierra Gorda and the Yucatan peninsula.

Its beautiful song begins with a four whistles, followed by three to six phrases: choo-oo choo-oo choo-oo, choo, choo-choo-churry-chewt choo-choo-churry-chewt. Individuals mainly sing at dawn and dusk, increasing the intensity of their song during breeding season. Reproductive display includes singing in duet.

The singing quail is very social, forming groups of 5-10 individuals. After the breeding season, which lasts from February to October, families come together and move in groups. When threatened or alarmed, they prefer running and hiding to flying and will run in all directions to confuse potential predators, taking off explosively only as a last resort. Both parents look after and protect the chicks.

Because of its short and powerful legs, the singing quail spends most of its time on the ground, digging in the soil to search for food—insects, seeds, vegetation, and tubers. It has a strong, and serrated bill, perfect for consuming seeds.

Conservation Actions in the Sierra Gorda

In the face of the Sixth Massive Extinction, we seek to protect the species of the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve by protecting their habitats. We do this by purchasing land for strict conservation in which we eliminate all human activities, such as logging and cattle grazing. This network of private nature reserves strategically forms a biological corridor, connecting habitats of endangered species. The singing quail is present and protected in every one of the private reserves that forms part of this network. Moreover, it is protected in privately-owned forest plots for which landowners receive payments for ecosystem services.

 

References

SEMARNAT. 2002. Norma Oficial Mexicana NOM-059-SEMARNAT -2010, Protección ambiental - Especies nativas de México de flora y fauna silvestres-Categorías de riesgo y especificaciones para su inclusión, exclusión o cambio-Lista de especies en riesgo. Diario Oficial de la Federación, Miércoles 6 de Marzo de 2002 (Segunda Sección). México, D. F. (01 mayo 2008).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singing_quail

https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dactylortyx_thoracicus

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_World_quail

https://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/Species-Account/nb/species/sinqua1/references

May 22, 2019

Ocelots of the Sierra Gorda

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

Ocelot

(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).

Threats

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.

References:

http://www.catsg.org/index.php?id=88

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocelot

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/o/ocelot/

https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/11509/97212355

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

 

Citation:

 Canseco-Márquez, L. & Mendoza-Quijano, F. 2007. Abronia taeniataThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2007. https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/63691/12698332

Links:

 
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