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
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Quarterly Forest Ranger Reports from the Field

The private nature reserves established across 5,242 hectares (12953 acres) have had adequate conservation management to assure habitat protection for biodiversity.

The forest rangers we work with have a constant presence in the reserves they steward, to assure there is no livestock, illegal logging and poaching.

The four park rangers we employ (Leonel Espino, Abel Reséndiz, , Javier Aguillón, Emiliano Cárdenas) and their supervisor, Miguel Flores, make weekly site visits and were accompanied to the field by the program leader, Roberto Pedraza Muñoz, at random four times in the last 3 months.  Thanks to the park rangers presence, all of the reserves are free of activities that would otherwise damage the biodiversity. 

Leonel Espino, located in Rancho Nuevo, does a weekly surveillance check throughout the  combined reserves: San Francisco - Arenitas – San José; Abel Reséndiz, located inValle Verde, does surveillance in the Cañón del Fresno and la Joya Verde; Javier Aguillón makes rounds in the reserves Cerro La Luz – Cerro Prieto – El Guayamé; and Emiliano Cárdenas is vigilant of the reserves Hoya del Hielo and Cueva El Tigre. Thanks to their combined experience and the training they receive, they help monitor the passage of wild cats: jaguars, mountain lions, ocelots; in addition to the presence and movements of small mammals (peccarie, armadillo, coatimundi, etc.) and other species like macaws, parrots, chivizcoyos and the orchids that flower in the forests.

Within the bio-corridor where the private reserves are located, we dedicate resources to the surveillance and monitoring of the lands that surround the reserves, because the neighboring property owners are part of the payment for environmental services which means they are dedicated exclusively to wildlife conservation.

The support and accompaniment by the program assistant, Miguel Flores, whose periodical visits are both to verify the reports fromt he field and to take management decisions such as the restoration of waterholes for wildlife or trail maintenance.

In these last three months, Sierra Gorda suffered the harshest part of the dry season, and we participated in the control of two forest fires and the coordination with the agencies of the sector.  The forest fire that occurred in between the Hoya Verde and El Jagueycito reserves consumed almost 2000 hectares of temperate forest.  The strong winds incited a canopy fire which devastated a portion of the forest.  We made reconnaissance of the leading edge of the forest fires and alerted residents as needed and cleaned fire breaks with five additional day workers and finally it was extinguished with the rains of the cold front #62 to cross the country.

 

The second forest fire threatened the eastern reaches of Hoja del Hielo reserve and Abel and Miguel again participated in the firefighting and once again, thanks to a seasonal storm with 15mm of rain came to put the fire out. 

Fortunately no other forest fires were reported.  The on-going environmental education in the local communities and the weekly radio program reinforce the message to prevent forest fires.

Among the responsabilities of the forest rangers on patrol is to assure the functional capacity. Recently, Leonel took care of a small dam that provides water to wildlife in the Arenitas Reserve. Occassionally we hire additional day workers and three were required in this case to remove a considerable section of a huge oak tree that had fallen over the water hole. While working, the crew reported seeing green parrots in two sinkholes located nearby, nesting in the sides of the caves.

Javier Aguillón, the ranger in charge of Cerro Prieto has been monitoring trails with a camera trap and finally had the luck to capture images of diverse small mammals that congregate at the spring nearby.  Some shots are attached below.

The naturalist who is the point person with the World Land Trust UK, Roberto Pedraza Ruiz, participated in the liberation of a female margay. Mr. Juan Fonseca from a ranch community, El Madroño, had reported his chickens being eaten by a wild cat and taking things into his own hands, discreetly captured the culprit with a soft blanket and called Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda´s offices to request help in liberating her and he accompanied Roberto to a similar forest away from his livestock.

 

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Laura P. B. Pérez-Arce
Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda IAP

                              
     
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Entrance to the Cerro Prieto reserve
Entrance to the Cerro Prieto reserve

Thanks to the donors to this campaign, Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda (GESG) is able to articulate the expansion and protection of a biocorridor of vital habitat within the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve. The ecosystems of the Sierra Gorda are suffering from ever-increasing pressure due to human population growth and demand for resources. Illegal logging for construction and mercury mining, two particularly dangerous threats to the area's biodiversity, continue in spite of the Sierra Gorda’s status as a protected area.

As a result, it has become ever more important for us to maintain and expand the network of private natural reserves that we steward. These reserves have become true sanctuaries, places where we can completely restrict extractive activities. We are able to do this only by maintaining an on-going presence in the reserves and cultivating respect among the local people for the work that we do. Local communities understand that once we have established a parcel of land as a reserve, from that point forward the land will be utilized only for the protection of biodiversity.

In recent years, one of these protected plots measuring almost 3000 acres - the Cerro Prieto reserve, situated on a high mountain ridge and comprised of temperate and cloud forests - had become completely surrounded by illegal logging activity. Thus, expanding it to protect more forests was a high priority for us at GESG. With this goal in mind, we partnered with our long-time ally from the United Kingdom, the World Land Trust, to purchase two adjacent parcels where, several months before, loggers had begun to cut down ancient cedars. We were also fortunate to protect an additional adjacent parcel through the generous support of the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, an ally from Texas that collaborated in the past on the establishment of two other reserves. This expansion of the Cerro Prieto reserve is certainly a good beginning to 2016, allowing us to repel the advance of chainsaws and other human activities on these valuable forests.

In other happenings, as part of our efforts to increase the economic value assigned to the region's ecosystems and strengthen our Payments for Ecosystem Services programs, we achieved the registration of our NAMA (Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action) proposal with the federal Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT). Our NAMA is an innovative strategy for capturing carbon in forests and soils through a strengthening of the Querétaro State Mechanism for Carbon Compensations (developed by the state government under our guidance), which has sufficient resources to protect forests within Querétaro state as well as to replicate soil management best practices in other Mexican states.

In more good news, word of the discovery of two new magnolia species in one of our reserves made headlines in several well-known international publications, including the BBC, Smithsonian, ARKive, Maptia, and the Daily Mail among others.  

Finally, as a way of celebrating the ecosystem diversity of the Sierra Gorda and honoring some of its species, we are excited to share two new videos:

Sierra Gorda, Arca de Vida (on the Sierra Gorda's biological diversity)

Ajolotes, Señores de las Pozas (on threatened salamanders in Mexico)

The biodiverse forests of Cerro Prieto
The biodiverse forests of Cerro Prieto

Links:

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A tree frog in the Sierra Gorda
A tree frog in the Sierra Gorda

Although I looked for them every chance I had, amphibians were most noticeable for their absence by the end of the rainy season in the Sierra Gorda. This should not be such a surprise when, at the global level, 41% of amphibian species is at risk of extinction. More are disappearing every day, and the factors leading to their disappearance continue unabated.

As a child, I remember tree frogs and toads showing up in the potted plants and patio of my mother's house, the night-time mating choruses of frogs in the Jalpan River, and colorful Bell's salamanders adorning forest paths. Today, these sights and sounds have become sadly rare.

As a group, amphibians managed to resist other massive extinctions of life on Earth. However, this sixth massive wave of extinction, which humans have brought on with our hubris and delirious greed for natural resources, is turning out to be more rapid, vicious, and deadly than the others, and the future is looking bleak for amphibians.

For the moment, as we continue to grow unsustainably - polluting, monopolizing, and destroying our planet's natural resources - we are all looking for good news. That is why, when a tree frog showed up in the kitchen sink a couple of days ago, for me it was a cause for celebration.

This chance encounter gives me hope for the future of amphibians in the Sierra Gorda. It also means that your support for our conservation efforts, which has allowed us to keep the chainsaws out of our forests, is providing a refuge for this threatened group of animals.

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Hermilo Aguillon, owner of "Hoya la Cienaga"
Hermilo Aguillon, owner of "Hoya la Cienaga"

There is a human facet to the natural landscape: that of hundreds of people that benefit from the environmental service payments and donations by people and companies that want to support biodiversity conservation.

Marcelina and Hermilo are two outstanding examples of the human side that live within the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve and whose way of living has changed in the last years thanks to the program to recuperate the understory of old standing oak forest.

Marcelina (54 years old, owner of the property known as "La Parada Cerro", La Esperanza, Jalpan de Serra, 100 hectares) is the proud owner of one of the old oak forests in the Sierra Gorda. Now a widow, she lives with her two daughters, her grandchildren and her mother.

When her husband was alive, they made a living rearing livestock. If a family member fell ill, they would sell calves to cover the costs of care.

However the family entered into a crisis when Marcelina’s husband migrated to the United States and died soon afterwards. She tried to continue with the livestock, but it was not possible.

With less rainfall there was less food available for the animals, which fell ill more frequently, and there was no money to pay for a vet. Other times there were very few buyers, or they wanted to pay a very low price for the cattle. Marcelina tried to create more enclosures for her livestock, so she deforested more of the forest and destroyed areas with a high biological value.

Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda offered her payments for environmental services in exchange for her taking out the livestock so that the forest could recuperate. In this way, Marcelina decided to dedicate part of her land for cattle and dedicate 100 hectares as a private reserve. Now her forest is much improved. Where the livestock would trample before, the forest is now so dense that it is difficult to walk through.

Marcelina feels calm seeing the improvements in her land and for having had the opportunity to create a living thanks to its protection. “I am very happy to see my land conserved and with many animals in the countryside, but I also need continuing economic support, because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do it alone,” she states.

Hermilo (76 years old, “Hoya la Ciénaga", Lagunita San Diego, Landa de Matamoros, 100 hectares) is a forest proprietor and lives with his wife, Nicanora Servin. Before being part of the environmental services payment program, he and his family lived from agriculture, livestock; they processed the local agave lechuguilla and made natural rope from the fibers.

But with the increase in the use of plastic, the demand for these artisanal products fell and the family ended up in poverty.

After a while, when the road was built to their isolated community, they began to sell timber. However, in recent years the trees were affected by the bark beetle infestations. “Selling the infested wood was not a good business; the only ones who can make a living are those that mark out the trees to be cut,” says Hermilo.

When the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve was created, they began to receive support for caring for the forest. Now, for protecting the forests they receive an income which they live from. The state government and other donors, through the Grupo Ecologico Sierra Gorda, support Hermilo’s family and other rural landowners in exchange for not logging the old standing forest and excluding their livestock, and withdrawing any other agricultural activities from the forest.

“We know that in the forest there is life and, if we want water and cool weather, clean air and little animals in the forest, we have to care for our forest. The tree is the man’s best friend” he says.

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collared peccary
collared peccary

Twenty six days after having installed three camera traps in Grupo Ecológico’s Private Reserve Number 1 we went to collect them to see what they had captured. And we were very pleased with the results.

A puma, a Temazate deer and a collared peccary – the wild boar species native to this area of Mexico – appeared in the recordings both in pictures and videos.

For Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda, these are the clearest and indisputable signs that conservation is achieved by eliminating human influence from wild places. Only then will wildlife be able to re-colonize what people took from them: their home.

You can see the video here.

Puma
Puma
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Organization Information

Grupo Ecologico Sierra Gorda I.A.P

Location: Queretaro - Mexico
Website:
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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