In order to adequately protect the private nature reserves that GESG oversees in the Sierra Gorda, we need to have a continuous presence in the field, surveillance trails and, very importantly, to keep the fences in good condition.
It is important to remember that domestic cattle (cows, sheep, goats, donkeys, horses) are exotic fauna that did not exist in America and the local species and ecosystems evolved without their presence. As a result, cattle presence in forests and jungles have had a severe negative impact by affecting succession processes and forest regeneration, their grazing is eradicating undergrowth and destroying the indispensable niche for many species. And of course, depredation conflicts arise for the big cats (jaguars and pumas) that find the cattle to be easy prey and that of course the cattle ranchers seek to eliminate. Throughout Mexico this leads to the useless slaughtering of felines, because many times these innocent specimens are sacrificed, or they are blamed for the death of animals that had died for other reasons for which felines are also targeted.
Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to keep our reserves free from cattle, grazing and destruction, being dedicated exclusively to wildlife. We recently calculated the CO2 that the reserves capture on their surface each year and it adds up to approximately 30,000 tons of CO2, a significant contribution to global well-being on a global scale and of course it has abundant hydrological recharge, landscape, oxygen production, soil retention and formation, climate regulation and of course the home for valuable biodiversity. For this, we have dedicated time and resources to repair the fences in several of the reserves, both those that were consumed by the fire last May in the Mesa Colorada and Hoya Verde, as well as those in the Cañón del Fresno and Las Arenitas. With this year's severe drought, the reserves were among the few areas with unrippled vegetation, so it certainly attracted the attention of the ranchers and they turned a blind eye if their cattle were introduced into them.
Maintaining the fences required replacing posts (we purchased iron for its durability), tightening and repairing the fence wires, and also maintaining the walkways for workers and carrying the posts. In the case of Mesa Colorada, they required a mule rental and they had to build a small camp because of their remote location (3 hours on foot from the El Pocito community).
On the other hand we maintained presence and visits in other reserves, that fortunately received rain in isolated events and the jagüeyes (small dams) were filled, guaranteeing a water supply for the wildlife. We also remodeled the roof of a small hut located in one of the reserves, installed canals, and collected water in a tank, so as to feed a watering hole. Now the wildlife has water in a place where such water may be scarce.
And once again, we registered another instance of black bear (Ursus americanus) in one of the reserves, which would be the second in central Mexico in at least two centuries. Even better, it is a female. So with a little luck, we hope in the mid-term to record cubs and be able to talk about a reproductive population in the Sierra Gorda. They will have to be protected and cared for so that they can flourish and be reintegrated into the fabric of the region's ecosystems.
Proteger de manera adecuada a las reservas naturales privadas que el GESG custodia en la Sierra Gorda requiere de nuestra continua presencia en campo, los recorridos de vigilancia y muy importante, mantener los cercados en buen estado.
Recordemos que el ganado doméstico (Vacas, ovejas, cabras, asnos, caballos) es fauna exótica, que no existía en América y sus especies y ecosistemas evolucionaron sin su presencia. Por lo que su presencia en bosques y selvas ha tenido un severo impacto negativo al afectar procesos de sucesión y regeneración forestal, su ramoneo desaparece al sotobosque y ello destruye el nicho indispensable para muchas especies. Y desde luego que surgen los conflictos de depredación por los grandes felinos (jaguares y pumas) que encuentran al ganado como presas fáciles y que desde luego los ganaderos buscan eliminar. Por todo México ello provoca el inútil sacrificio de los felinos, pues muchas veces se sacrifican a ejemplares inocentes, o se les culpa de la muerte de animales que murieron por otros motivos e igualmente se les elimina.
Por ello, es de la mayor importancia mantener a nuestras reservas sin ganado, libres de su ramoneo y destrucción como espacios dedicados exclusivamente a la vida silvestre. Recientemente hicimos el cálculo del CO2 que cada año capturan en su superficie las reservas y suma aproximadamente 30,000 toneladas de CO2, un aporte significativo para el bienestar global desde la escala global y desde luego ello abunda en la recarga hidrológica, paisaje, producción de oxígeno, retención y formación de suelos, regulación climática y desde luego la casa para la valiosa biodiversidad. Para ello, hemos dedicado tiempo y recursos a reparar los cercados en varias de las reservas, tanto los que fueron consumidos por el incendio de Mayo pasado en las de la Mesa Colorada y la Hoya Verde, como los de el Cañón del Fresno y Las Arenitas. Con la fuerte sequía de este año, las reservas eran de los pocos espacios con vegetación sin ramonear, por lo que desde luego ello atrajo la atención de los ganaderos y se hacían de la vista gorda si su ganado se introducía en las mismas.
El dar mantenimiento a los cercados requirió de cambiar postes (adquirimos de fierro por su duración), tensar y reparar los alambres de los cercos, y también dar mantenimiento a los senderos para el paso de los trabajadores y acarreo de los postes. Que en el caso de la Mesa Colorada requirió de la renta de una mula e instalar un pequeño campamento por su lejanía (3 horas a pie desde la comunidad de El Pocito).
Por otro lado mantuvimos presencia y recorridos en las demás reservas, que afortunadamente recibieron lluvia en eventos puntuales y los jagüeyes (pequeñas presas) se llenaron y podemos garantizar el abasto de agua en las mismas para la fauna. También se remozó el tejado de la pequeña cabaña que se encuentra en una de ellas, se instalaron canales y se colecta agua en un depósito, para de ahí alimentar un abrevadero y la fauna disponga de agua en un paraje donde la misma puede ser bastante escasa.
Y una vez más, tuvimos el registro de otro ejemplar de oso negro (Ursus americanus) en una de las reservas, lo que sería el segundo en el centro de México en al menos dos siglos y lo mejor es que se trata de una hembra. Por lo que con un poco de suerte, esperamos en el mediano plazo registrar cachorros y poder hablar de una población reproductora en la Sierra Gorda. A la que habrá que proteger y cuidar para que florezca y se reintegren al tejido de los ecosistemas de la región.
-Bearded Wood-Partridge (Chivizcoyo is the common name in Mexico)
The Bearded Wood-Partridge is a chicken-like bird endemic to cloud and temperate forest areas of east-central Mexico. This speedy bird is distinguishable by its silvery blue neck and head and short slightly curved beak, which makes it a specialist in eating seeds, fruits, and insects! A fantastic seed distributor, the Bearded Wood-Partridge also feeds on beans and corn so it is actively persecuted by farmers.
Due to fragmented habitats, Mexico could lose this endemic bird and its beautiful elaborate 15 minute songs and seed dispersion skills. The bird can be considered a pest to farmers. Therefore, it is important to help incentivize the protection of this bird to farmers and protect its remaining habitat in its small distribution areas in Mexico.
The Bearded Wood-Partridge is decreasing in population due to fragmented habitats. There are 3,600 known mature adults still in existence, but the bird’s population has been vulnerable and declining for decades.
Status in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve:
Sierra Gorda’s WildLands Project Director, Roberto Pedraza R., has spotted these rare birds in at least 40 different places on our reserve. And GESG protects populations of this species in several of the private natures reserve we run within our SGBR, providing it a true haven.
Conservation in Our Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve:
As mentioned earlier, we protect this bird in our Network of Natural Reserves under the supervision of GESG. This bird is abundant in the temperate and cloud forests where they are protected and still have forest corredors. This is very different to other areas where the bird is found, such as neighboring states like Hidalgo, San Luís Potosí, and Veracruz, where the forests are fractionated and its populations are isolated.
Without a doubt, effectively protecting its habitat is the best method for protecting this species. Furthermore, we need more environmental education activities and ecotourism projects that relieve pressure on forests, like those in Ejido La Trinidad, Xilitla, in San Luis Potosí State.
Habits and Habitats:
The Bearded Wood-Partridge is a non-migratory bird, meaning it does not fly to seek other lands. This means that this bird is extremely susceptible to those who see them as year-round pests. The Bearded Wood-Partridge is a very elusive bird as it tends to hide in the forest understory. Because of the birds’ tendency to hide, research on its habits has been difficult to conduct. Little is known about the bird’s reproductive habits. The species currently experiences a fragmented distribution due to hunting and habitat loss.
Eitniear, Jack. (2008). Observing the Bearded Wood Partridge: a rare and elusive species.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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).
The Bromeliad Arboreal Alligator Lizard
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.
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 taeniata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2007. https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/63691/12698332
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