| Dec 20, 2016
Protecting Wild Cat Habitat
As described in our last report, several months ago we identified two potential properties to further expand the Cerro Prieto reserve in collaboration with the World Land Trust. These properties extend over Piedra de la Cruz Mountain, which at 2,780 meters is one of the highest peaks of the Eastern Sierra Gorda. We have now acquired these two plots comprising 50.4 hectares and 92.6 hectares, called El Jonotal and Joya Escondida, respectively. Both were suffering from the effects of illegal logging, with ancient Mexican white cedars being felled to make wooden shingles transported out of this remote area by pack animals. Now, the cloud forests that cover these properties and serve as habitat for pumas, jaguars, ocelots, and margays will no longer be subjected to this harmful activity. In both cases, the acquisitions were conducted under the best circumstances, with signed contracts and receipts, digital maps created, and property boundaries accepted by neighbors.
With these transactions finished, we have returned to the work of searching for new properties to acquire and have a list of plots interesting for their conservation status as well as the threats they face. We hope to submit a new proposal in January to the World Land Trust for further expansion of the reserves.
Meanwhile, since our last report, all of our reserves have had the constant presence of our rangers (Leonel Espino, Abel Reséndiz, Emiliano Cárdenas, Javier Aguillón) and their supervisor – Miguel Flores – along with occasional inspections by Roberto Pedraza. In this time period, we served as host for the World Land Trust’s Symposium, which was an excellent experience. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to meet with peers who are fighting the same fight to do common sense conservation by acquiring and managing refuges for wildlife and slowing the wave of extinction that is threatening our planet. To share experiences with these peers, learn from them how they manage reserves, and get closer to the work and team members of the World Land Trust was an incredibly enriching experience and an honor for the Sierra Gorda.
During the Symposium, we visited the Cañón del Fresno reserves with World Land Trust personnel (such as Nina Seale and Dan Bradbury) along with other partners, including Bibiana Sucre of Venezuela, Isabelle Lakhman of Malaysia, Marc Hoogeslag of the IUCN’s Netherlands National Committee, Ruben Kachatryan of Armenia, Marco Cerezo of Guatemala, Ryan Lynch of Ecuador, and Nicola Davies of the United Kingdom.
Nina Seale stayed on for an additional week, allowing us to introduce her to several more reserves - la Hoya del Hielo, Arenitas, Cerro Prieto, and Guayamé – along with other interesting sites in the Sierra Gorda. During the trip to the Guayamé reserve, we managed to find a salamander, after several fruitless attempts, which turned out to be an individual of the species Pseudoerycea leprosa, a new finding for the Sierra Gorda which has threatened status in Mexico. Meanwhile, during the trip to the Hoya del Hielo reserve, we were lucky enough to find signs of a puma, recent enough to still have fresh urine. Later, we did a horseback trip to the isolated western section of the Hoya Verde reserve where we recently acquired a property called La Hoyita. In total, the trip involved eight hours riding through wild and empty landscapes, with the only signs of humans being a ranch that borders the property. It was a pleasure to confirm the excellent conservation status of this large wild area.
We are pleased to announce that during the previous quarter, we found no evidence of illegal activities in the reserves. Additionally, after spreading the word and encouraging the authorities, action was finally taken to stop the illegal logging we reported in the previous report. Actions taken included inspections, interception of vehicles transporting illegal timber, and the application of fines. We held a number of meetings with agencies and authorities to ensure this situation was resolved in a timely and effective manner and stop the damage to such high-priority conservation areas. Other happenings from this quarter included maintenance work to the principal trail in the Las Arenitas reserve done by Leonel Espino and the exciting news that Abel Reséndiz managed to photograph a juvenile puma in the Cañón del Fresno using a game camera. As always, Miguel Flores and Roberto Pedraza provided excellent on-the-ground leadership in the protection of the reserves.