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

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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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.  



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:


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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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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
$42,536 raised of $75,000 goal
624 donations
$32,464 to go
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