Protecting Wild Cat Habitat

by Grupo Ecologico Sierra Gorda I.A.P
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Protecting Wild Cat Habitat
Protecting Wild Cat Habitat
Protecting Wild Cat Habitat
Protecting Wild Cat Habitat
Protecting Wild Cat Habitat
Protecting Wild Cat Habitat
Protecting Wild Cat Habitat
Protecting Wild Cat Habitat
Protecting Wild Cat Habitat
Protecting Wild Cat Habitat
Protecting Wild Cat Habitat
Protecting Wild Cat Habitat
Protecting Wild Cat Habitat

An article by Roberto Pedraza Ruiz, GESG’s official photographer and head of the Lands for Conservation Program, on the birth of this incredible network of private nature reserves.

In 1987, my parents started a grassroots movement aimed at conserving the incredible biodiversity of the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, which led to the founding of Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda (GESG). Having grown up with the Sierra Gorda as my back yard, I enthusiastically became involved with the project. It was natural for me to pick up photography as a tool for shedding light on the Sierra Gorda’s biological wealth and documenting its diversity of ecosystems.

In 1996, I was carrying out point counts for a bird monitoring project, which led me to revisit a very special cloud forest, one where grand old oaks and ancient cypresses reach heights of 40 meters with their limbs draped in dense mats of moss, ferns, orchids, and bromeliads, a place where I have managed to photograph jaguars, pumas, and margays.

To my dismay, I found this precious cloud forest in the process of being logged, which was perfectly legal but incredibly harmful nevertheless. Hundreds of trees had already been cut down, and, as is customary, the loggers and foresters paid the humble property owners a pittance for the rights to their forest. The shock of this experience spurred me and the rest of GESG to action. We stopped the destruction by purchasing this cloud forest and placing it under strict protection, establishing it as the first private natural reserve in the Sierra Gorda.

Today, we run a network of private nature reserves, devoted solely to wildlife. Thanks to these networks and your generosity, we are protecting sites with high biological value, giving ecosystems and species refuges from human activity, spaces where they are protected from humans’ ever-increasing demands for land and ecosystem services.

Your donations make this work possible by helping us to cover park ranger salaries and maintenance costs. Thank you.


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Bell's False Brook Salamander
Bell's False Brook Salamander

The Salamanders of the Sierra Gorda: a family that needs your help!


The Big-Footed Salamander (Chiropterotriton magnipes) – Critically Endangered

Chunky False Brook Salamander (Aquiloeurycea cephalica) – Near Threatened

Leprous False Brook Salamander (Pseudoerycea leprosa) – Least Concern

Bell´s False Brook Salamander (Isthmura belli)— Vulnerable


Protection status: All four salamanders found in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve have Protected Status under SEMARNAT (Mexico’s Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources) and are listed in the IUCN’s Red List of Endangered Species. This is not surprising, as 40% of all amphibian species are in danger of extinction worldwide.

Status in the Sierra Gorda: The salamanders of the Sierra Gorda have lost thousands of hectares of habitat and their numbers are decreasing due to agricultural clearings, forest fires, logging, infrastructure development and climate change. Moreover, a popular myth that salamanders impregnate women has led to many salamanders being killed unnecessarily.

While the Chunky False Brook Salamander can make its home in somewhat disturbed habitats such as forest edges and rural gardens, other species such as the Leprous False Brook Salamander are extremely sensitive to disturbances in their habitats. The Big-footed Salamander, meanwhile, is critically endangered. It is micro-endemic to a small stretch of the mountains between Querétaro and San Luis Potosí (approximately 10 km2) and was last seen two years ago. 

Habitat and Habits: These salamanders lack lungs and breathe through their skin and through the tissues lining their mouths. Glands in their skin discharge mucus, keeping the skin moist and slippery, helping with respiration and thermoregulation, and making it difficult for predators to grab on.  

Because of their permeable skin, these salamanders rely on damp and cool habitats. They favor the temperate and cloud forests of the Sierra Gorda, and can be found in upper altitudes of all five municipalities that make up the Biosphere Reserve.

Cryptic, nocturnal creatures, they make their homes in the leaf litter of the forest floor, in cavities in rocks, and in the forest canopy in bromeliads. They are fierce insect predators and are most active in the rainy season.

Did you know that salamanders can regenerate lost limbs!?

Conservation actions in the Sierra Gorda: Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda protects all four species of salamanders in our privately managed reserves. By keeping the forests in these reserves free from human activity, salamanders can nest in safety and are not threatened by illegal logging. We also provide forest owners with payments for ecosystem services in areas where these species are distributed, thus protecting more habitats.

Amphibians survived the mass extinction that wiped out dinosaurs during the late Cretaceous period, about 65 million years ago. Now, they are in greater danger than any other vertebrate group. Help us protect these magnificent, prehistoric beings.

Big-Footed Salamander
Big-Footed Salamander
Leprous False Brook Salamander
Leprous False Brook Salamander
Chunky False Brook Salamander
Chunky False Brook Salamander


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Two pairs of military macaws vying for a perch
Two pairs of military macaws vying for a perch

Military Macaw

(Ara militaris)

The military macaw is one of the endangered species that we protect in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve. There are only 40 pairs of military macaws left in the Biosphere Reserve. Please support our work financially and help us to ensure the survival this magnificent bird by providing it with safe habitats.

Protection status: The military macaw´s population has been decreasing over the past fifty years due to habitat loss and capture for sale as pets. Classified as Endangered by SEMARNAT (Mexico´s Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources) and listed as Vulnerable in IUCN´s Red List of Threatened Species, its global population is estimated to be only between 3,000 – 10,000 individuals, with approximately 1,000 – 2,000 breeding pairs. (1)

Status in the Sierra Gorda: Military macaws have lost thousands of hectares of habitat in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve because of agriculture, logging, infrastructure development, tourism, forest fires, and climate change. Furthermore, canyoneering activities disturb the macaws’ nesting sites.

A single colony of 80 birds survives in the Sierra Gorda. Although the macaws used to be plentiful throughout the reserve, they now occupy just two nesting sites: Sótano del Barro and Cañón del Infiernillo. They rest and nest in these two sites, leaving to feed in neighboring areas. Even here they suffer from increasing pressure from tourism and habitat transformation.

More macaws visit every year from San Luis Potosí during seasonal migrations.

Habitats and Habits: The macaws depend on the temperate forests and tropical deciduous forests in the region, where they feed on a variety of fruits, including acorns, fruits of paradise, and nuts which they break open with their strong peaks.

Military macaws mate for life. This means that if one of the pair is killed or captured, the other will never mate again. This significantly reduces the species’ ability to restore its population. There are currently approximately 1,000 – 2,000 estimated breeding pairs of military macaws in the world.

Our 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 sites for military macaws. We continually educate local communities and tourism organizations about the macaws and regulate pressure on their nesting sites. Finally, we provide landowners with payments for ecosystem services in areas where the macaws feed, thus ensuring forest conservation.

The global population of military macaws is at risk. Please support us financially and help us to conserve their habitat.



  1. BirdLife International 2016. Ara militarisThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species2016: e.T22685548A93079238. Downloaded on 05 January 2019.


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The Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve is a verdant refuge in the heart of Mexico and a vital habitat for the wildlife kingdom where the jaguar reigns. It is also home to many rural communities and towns that harbor a rich and unique cultural heritage.

Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda is the steward of this sacred redoubt. With hundreds of daily activities and several strategic lines of action, we strive to preserve its forests and develop opportunities for its communities.

Rural women employing other women in their roadside restaurants, setting a higher bar for sustainable tourism; local youth groups learning leadership skills in order to make decisions in community; school principals and mayors creating sustainable solutions for solid waste management; regenerative agricultural and livestock planning; participative forest and watershed management; expanding capacities and tools to make progress from the ground-up: This is what Sierra Gorda is about.

This year, we began a process of replicating our most innovative and successful initiatives. We are allying with the governments of Chihuahua, Baja California Sur, and Nuevo León to replicate Querétaro’s Carbon Offsetting Mechanism. Our environmental education program is being replicated in Coahuila. Finally, our holistic and regenerative soil management programs are expanding in Chihuahua, Guanajuato, and San Luis Potosí.

Other notable achievements include: 5,956 children in 87 schools benefiting from environmental education; 114,000 hectares under regenerative soil management in Querétaro, Chihuahua, Guanajuato, and San Luis Potosí; the first sighting of a black bear in one of the 7,000 hectares under strict conservation; 34 million Mexican pesos entering local communities; and 61 community workshops held this year for 319 farmers and gardeners.

When we work together, we can move mountains to educate, influence, and make conservation a reality. We need your help to continue growing this grassroots movement and achieve our goal of re-greening Mexico. This year, help us potentiate every possible social, economic, and political opportunity by donating to one of the campaigns listed below. By giving, you will build resilience and better livelihoods, hope and joy for communities and for Nature.


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Temazate Deer
Temazate Deer

The Deer of the Sierra Gorda:

The White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and the Temazate Deer (Mazama temama)

 Status in the Sierra Gorda: White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and Temazate deer (Mazama temama) populations are extremely vulnerable in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve due to habitat loss, hunting, and climate change. They have lost thousands of hectares of habitat in the Sierra Gorda to wildfires, agriculture, logging, and infrastructure development. Poaching is a major threat, as are packs of domestic and feral dogs that have become efficient and abundant hunters in the region. Finally, climate-change-induced draughts further threaten local populations of these species.


Distribution in the Sierra Gorda: The white-tailed deer can be found in all of the Sierra Gorda’s ecosystems, while the temazate makes its home only the temperate forests and the cloud forests in the western Sierra Gorda.


Habits and Habitat: A very flexible species, the white-tailed deer has been able to adapt to degraded habitats, paddocks, and even the outskirts of urban areas. The temazate deer, however, are much more sensitive to changes in their habitat and need large expanses of preserved forests with dense vegetation. They are agile navigators of the forest, moving with ease through the labyrinths of thicket and limestone outcrops.

Deer are a fundamental part of the forest ecosystem, providing food for predators and dispersing seeds from the plants they consume. Many species, and the forest structure itself, depend on healthy populations of deer.


Conservation Actions in the Sierra Gorda: By keeping private reserves free from human activity such as illegal logging, poaching, and land clearing, Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda’s provides white-tailed and temazate deer with undisturbed habitat and an important refuge.

We also provide payments for environmental services (such as carbon sequestration) to owners of forests where these species are distributed. These payments allow forest owners to invest in forest regeneration, creating more habitats for the deer.

Finally, we offer a rigorous environmental education program in the region’s schools that teaches youth about the importance of conservation in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve.


We must act to protect the the White-tailed and Temazate deer before they are seriously threatened! Join our work!

White-tailed deer
White-tailed deer


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Organization Information

Grupo Ecologico Sierra Gorda I.A.P

Location: Queretaro - Mexico
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @SierraGorda
Project Leader:
Martha "Pati" Ruiz Corzo
Jalpan de Serra, Queretaro Mexico
$38,455 raised of $75,000 goal
571 donations
$36,545 to go
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