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

Green Parakeet

Psittacara holochlorus

The Green Parakeet is one of the endangered species that calls the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve home. We seek to protect it through our Lands for Conservation program by providing it with a safe habitat.

Protection Status: On the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species (Least Concern) and listed as Endangered by SEMARNAT (Mexico’s Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources).

Status in the Sierra Gorda: Green parakeets have suffered several local extinctions in the Biosphere Reserve due to forest clearings, fires, logging, poaching, and infrastructure development. They are no longer present in 3 of the 5 municipalities that make up the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve.

Distribution: Southern Texas, USA, to Northern Mexico, south through the Middle American isthmus to south-western Nicaragua.

Habitat and Habits: Green parakeets are forest birds, making their home in temperate, cloud, and tropical forests. They nest in mountain crags and in the cavities of ancient trees. Extremely important in their ecosystems, green parakeets disperse seeds from the trees they feed on.

Green Parakeets form lifelong pairs, are extremely social, and spend much of their time cuddling and kissing.

Conservation Actions in the Sierra Gorda: We protect nesting sites within the nature reserves that we manage as part of our Land Conservation Program. Logging, poaching, and cattle grazing is forbidden in these reserves, thus ensuring a safe habitat for these loud and colorful birds. Please help us protect their habitats by becoming a recurring donor. 

Green parakeets are popular pets. Yet poaching is a serious threat to their survival. For each parakeet that makes it to the pet store, 8 die in the process of capture. And because green parakeets mate for life, a bird that has lost its pair will never again reproduce. Moreover, feral green parakeets that have escaped from their cages often become invasive species in non-native environments.

Check out our video, shot by Roberto Pedraza Ruiz

 

We would like to express a special thank you to the World Land Trust, for supporting the purchase of lands dedicated to strict conservation activities in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve and directly enabling our conservation efforts.  

 

References:

Edwards, E. P. 1972. A Field Guide to the birds of Mexico. Sweet Briar, Virginia USA

Eitniear, J.C. Green Parakeet (Psittacara holochlorus), In Neotropical Birds Online (T.S.Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. Retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: https://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/Species-Account/nb/species/grnpar

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Fresh jaguar territorial markings
Fresh jaguar territorial markings

Strengthening our partnership with the World Land Trust

The quarter began with a critical situation: environmental authorities’ lack of enforcement in the reserve (National Commission of Natural Protected Areas of SEMARNAT and the Federal Agency for Environmental Protection) has allowed cattle ranchers to carry out unrestricted burns and clearings of oak forests in the northeast corner of the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, primarily in El Pocito and Carrizal de los Durán in the municipality of Jalpan de Serra. This, coupled with delays in the arrival of rain during May, increased the occurrence of forest fires.

The Mesa Colorada reserve fell victim to such a forest fire in early June. It was intentionally provoked in the northern section of the reserve and began to travel towards La Hoya Verde reserve, affecting the undergrowth and tree canopy of approximately 200 ha of reserve land. We called and mobilized three fire brigades—two from the Federal Government and one from the Querétaro state government—guiding them to stop the fire’s advance. Our work consisted of opening firebreaks and clearing paths across most of the fire’s front. The fire raged for five days, but passive winds allowed the firebreaks to halt the fire’s movement. Certain areas of the fire, however, required direct intervention.

You can see a video of the fire by clicking here.

It should be noted that fighting fires is no easy task: just to reach the fire’s most remote front required a hike of 19 kilometers over very broken terrain, with abrupt cliffs and highly venomous rattlesnakes and fer-de-lance snakes. The risk to firefighters is real and great, and we thank them for their work.

Fortunately, rains arrived in the first week of June and put an end to the fire. Although oaks were lost, we anticipate that by maintaining this forest free from cattle, the affected area will be able to recover without major restoration work.

Also at the end of May, we had an incident in the Hoya del Cedro reserve: individuals on four-wheelers entered and disturbed the reserve by breaking a fence, littering, drinking, and using firearms (we found 22 caliber bullets). We do not think that they were poaching, as they would have created too much noise and would have scared away the wildlife. We reinforced the fence with 18 iron posts, and hope that this will prevent future intrusions.

Fortunately, our other reserves had no incidents. We continually monitor these reserves and, at the end of June, we had the pleasure of finding 15 fresh territorial markings of a jaguar in the Hoya del Hielo reserve. The tracks meant that a jaguar had passed by within a few hours of our trip. We installed a camera trap in the site and will be recording in case the jaguar returns. The presence of this great animal is a cause for celebration: it is an indicator of our work’s effectiveness and the importance of providing animals with wild, human-free spaces.

Financing by the Netherlands National IUCN Committee (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) has allowed us to expand the Hoya Verde reserve by 50 hectares. As a result, this reserve now protects oak forests and cloud forests. And with the support of our British partner, the World Land Trust (WLT), we acquired and incorporated 10 ha of cloud forest to the Cerro Cueva del Tigre reserve which is threatened by illegal logging that continues on its boundaries.

It is worth mentioning that we prioritize conservation of cloud forests because they cover less than 1% of Mexico yet harbor 12% of its flora, 33% of which is endemic. Their protection is high-impact conservation. They are also extremely beautiful.

During this quarter we also prospected several properties to add to the Cerro Prieto and La Hoya Verde reserves. These reserves are affected by clandestine logging and deforestation for the creation of livestock paddocks just outside of their boundaries. It is thanks to the WLT’s new campaign, “Save Mexico's Ancient Forests”, that we are able to continue purchasing properties.

As part of this campaign, Roberto Pedraza Ruiz, Head of the Land Conservation Program and Grupo Ecológico’s official photographer, travelled to the United Kingdom from August 9 – 21. He met with the World Land Trust team to update them about our work and held a photography exposition in The Forum, Norwich, titled “Discovering the secrets of Sierra Gorda, Mexico.” The exposition, held in a magnificent public space, was very well received.

Roberto Pedraza also gave three talks during the Rutland Bird Fair, the largest bird and wildlife observation event in the UK. During the talks, titled “Discovering the secrets of Mexico's Cloud Forests,” Roberto spoke about how his photography has become an effective tool for conservation, instrumental in discovering plant and animal species that are new to science, as well as rediscovering species that are considered extinct. GESG and the Sierra Gorda held a permanent presence in various locations of the fair, including at the WLT stand and in the food area, where a large screen showed a video as part of the WLT campaign. Because of this exposure and the incredible work of the World Land Trust, we will close the year with several new extensions to our reserves.

Our greatest honor and privilege is that new species (those previously mentioned and those that await publication in scientific articles), virtually extinct species, and endangered species such as jaguars find a safe haven in our reserves.

It is because of the incredible generosity of the British public and businesses on the other side of the Atlantic, as well as our GlobalGiving donors, that this conservation is possible.

Thank you!

Fence reinforcement to prevent trespassing
Fence reinforcement to prevent trespassing
"Discovering the secrets of Sierra Gorda, Mexico"
"Discovering the secrets of Sierra Gorda, Mexico"
The Forum: public exhibition space in Norwich
The Forum: public exhibition space in Norwich
The WLT stand at the Rutland Bird Fair
The WLT stand at the Rutland Bird Fair
World Land Trust information pamphlet
World Land Trust information pamphlet

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Abel Resendiz, Keeper of the Wild
Abel Resendiz, Keeper of the Wild

Due to a wet winter and spring, during which cold fronts have arrived late and brought rain and fog, forest fires, which are undoubtedly the main threat to the integrity of the reserves, have been extremely weak.

However, despite the favorable conditions, a lightning caused a fire that consumed approximately 20 hectares close to the western limit of the Cerro Prieto reserve. Fortunately, it was attended to immediately by our park ranger in charge of the reserve and a group of neighbors who were cleaning a firebreak gap nearby. Therefore, it fortunately did not turn out to be a major fire, but only a creeping fire.

In other reserves, the continued presence of our park rangers allowed us to maintain effective protection of the forests.

Placing a camera trap in reserve #2, we were able to obtain three video clips of a puma walking on one of the trails. This indicates that we are providing effective protection to these forests, where big cats now find a refuge.

During this period, we also submitted proposals to purchase new properties and expand two of the reserves. We want to purchase two plots that are covered in ancient cloud forests, with populations of Magnolia rzedowskiana, one of the new micro-endemic species. We also want to expand the reserve of the Cerro Cueva del Tigre and eliminate clandestine logging activities that have been occurring on both properties, which are subject to the World Land Trust.

We submitted another proposal to the Dutch Committee of the IUCN to expand the Hoya Verde reserve by purchasing 57 hectares of temperate forests. In both cases we are still waiting for the approval.

A symposium for the members of the World Land Trust Conservation Alliance was held in the facilities of the British Trust for Ornithology in Thetford, Suffolk between April 16th and 20th. It was attended by Roberto Pedraza Ruiz, Head of the GESG’s Lands for Conservation Program, together with conservationists from 20 countries, all of whom are partners that make up the Conservation Alliance. It was a pleasure to attend the event, learn from experiences of others, strengthen ties, and explore future scenarios for the management of the reserves, in particular the issue of the succession and renewal of staff. 

A small carnivorous plant (Pinguicula spp) caught the attention of Roberto Pedraza Ruiz in 2012 outside the reserves, but still in the area of influence of the Cerro Prieto, in the neighboring state of San Luís Potosí. He sent a photo to Dr. Sergio Zamudio Ruiz, who, without a doubt is an expert botanist and taxonomist when it comes to the flora of the Sierra Gorda and an authority when it comes to the carnivorous plants. In 2015 Pedraza Ruiz guided Dr. Zamudio to collect some copies of the species, and in March 2018 Dr. Zamudio and his colleagues published a scientific article in which they described 4 new species of the genus Pinguicula, among them the now Pinguicula robertiana, which is in fact a species new to science, as well as Pinguicula rzedowskiana, which is micro-endemic to the Cerro Grande. There is the possibility that both species have populations within the Cerro Prieto reserve. Another article described a new species of cactus, Mammillaria rzedowskiana, which is also micro-endemic, has healthy populations within our reserve, and we are proud to protect it.

These findings document the importance of protecting these forests, showing that an area like the Cerro Prieto reserve safeguards various species.

Miguel Flores in the Cueva del Tigre reserve
Miguel Flores in the Cueva del Tigre reserve

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During this period the park rangers carried out cleaning and maintenance of several main roads and trails in the private reserves known as Joya Verde, Cañón del Fresno, and Las Arenitas, located within the area that is known for the high risk of forest fires, which are caused by the negligence of the neighboring cattle ranchers. The trails require cleaning and maintenance as preventive measures since the dry season is coming upon us in the Sierra Gorda. The affected area can now be more easily reached by personnel carrying tools, food, and other supplies. The trails can also serve as a gap and, if necessary, can be expanded to contain the fire. This activity has proved to be extremely useful in the previous years and has enabled to control the fires once they start, when it is easier to do so.

The park rangers have also continued to monitor and survey the reserves. The highlight of the period is a presence of a jaguar in Las Arenitas reserve. More specifically, he was heard during three days by one of the park rangers and his assistant that were cleaning a path in the area. The dogs that accompanied them also felt the presence of the feline and did not leave the side of their owners, seeking their protection. Jaguars are well known for their fondness of dog meat, and dogs feel and know it.

Likewise, in a nearby livestock estate, located west of the Joya Verde reserve, a jaguar killed two calves and a mule. The case of the mule was particularly dramatic, since the attack took place in broad daylight and less than 300 meters from its owner, who heard the jaguar attacking his animal. Although he tried to defend it, he was not able to help. The jaguar was already consuming it and human presence did not halt it. The owner prudently retired.

In addition, on various occasions our park rangers were able to observe and protect a group of approximately 80 green macaws that was temporary present in the communities of the area, feeding on the seeds of paradise. It is a pleasure to know that a species as threatened as the green macaw is benefiting.

The park ranger of the Cerro de la Luz reserve worked with a brigade to control the mistletoe plague that infested the trees. This task is necessary given the wide dissemination of the plant, which, if not removed, ends up drying out the trees that it parasitizes.

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Abel Resendiz, World Land Trust Keeper of the Wild
Abel Resendiz, World Land Trust Keeper of the Wild

We are pleased to report that private nature reserves are in excellent condition for several reasons: after a shabby start, the rains became abundant and reduced the lack of moisture in the soils from previous years. This led to runoff and numerous streams woke up, especially in the Cerro Prieto reserve where springs sprouted up at several points. Furthermore, park rangers were continuously present in all the reserves and did not detect any illegality or any activity that would compromise the integrity of the private protected areas.

During the last days of October and the first week of November we hosted a production team from the Blue Ant Media in Canada. They came to film an entire chapter about the Sierra Gorda for a new television production on Mexican nature. Roberto Pedraza Ruiz was collaborating with them as a guide and knowledgeable expert of the area, and was able to accommodate the long list of species and ecosystems to be filmed. The crew traveled from the ancient semi-desert to the temperate forests of the highlands, riparian forests, and cloud forests that make-up our reserves. Moreover, it dedicated a whole day to a spectacular and pristine cave that has been visited only by few people.

The team worked in two of the reserves: Hoya del Hielo and the reserve of Fresno Canyon. In the Hoya del Hielo’s primary cloud forest, the team focused on filming magnolias, ancient trees, and epiphyte plant communities. The group was also impressed to find nine fresh territory markings of a puma. In the reserve of Fresno Canyon, the team looked for the great acorns of the Mexican Royal Oak (Quercus germana), Strangler Figs, and flowering orchids (Laelia speciosa). They were lucky to find all the necessary actors. Both protected areas will shine in the series that are scheduled to premiere in August 2018 in Canada and will be subsequently broadcasted in several countries. This will position the Sierra Gorda internationally.

We were also able to acquire a new camera trap, which we installed near a wild avocado due to the abundance of fruits and the subsequent activity of the fauna. After a few weeks the results left us very happy and we learned that wild boars, squirrels, a skunk, and a wandering margay love to eat wild avocados. We also obtained the first record of a kinkajou in that area, which is a surprise, given the high altitude (2,000 MASL) and the chilly temperatures of the forest. The camera also took photos of arborescent species taking a walk in the understory.

To close the year in the best way, we acquired a 220-hectare property of temperate and cloud forests with the support of the World Land Trust. This acquisition will allow us to expand the Hoya Verde reserve and eliminate livestock grazing that has been taking place in the area. In this way, the wild area will be finally returned to wildlife.

As in the case of Xilitla in August, we had to intervene yet again, this time to defend temperate forests of La Pingüica located at the highest point of the Sierra Gorda against the greedy forest management program and the engineer who designed it. The 3,400 hectares that the program refers to are vital for hydrological recharge since they constitute the headwaters of the Escanela river basin.

This forest management program represents one more case where biodiversity has been ignored and thus it was easy to make a long list of observations and points that need improvement. They were discussed during a meeting that took place on November 15, 2017 at our facilities, with the representatives of the federal environmental sector in the State of Querétaro, SEMARNAT, CONANP, and CONAFOR. The following preliminary agreements were made:

  • 40,000 m3 of abies will not be logged, since they represent a relict species with a reduced distribution.
  • 80,000 m3 of arbutus wood will not be logged, since new species for science might exist in that area.
  • Ancient trees and trees with cavities, vital for nesting, resting, and feeding of more than 30 vertebrate species will not be demolished.
  • Logging will not take place on the steepest slopes.
  • The technician must reduce the volume of pine that will be logged during ten years.
  • Logging of oaks will be reviewed since the forestry engineer intended to burn them to obtain charcoal (the activity also emits CO2).
  • Before authorizing the revised forest management program, the SEMARNAT Delegation of the State of Querétaro will share it for further revision.

Direct intervention of the civil society, which slowed down greedy loggers and their extractive activities and substantially improved environmental standards and biodiversity, represents an important advance for conservation.

Acorns (Quercus germana) from the cloud forest
Acorns (Quercus germana) from the cloud forest
Sweet-gums at sunrise
Sweet-gums at sunrise
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Organization Information

Grupo Ecologico Sierra Gorda I.A.P

Location: Queretaro - Mexico
Website:
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Twitter: @SierraGorda
Project Leader:
Martha "Pati" Ruiz Corzo
Jalpan de Serra, Queretaro Mexico
$38,455 raised of $75,000 goal
 
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