Jun 4, 2019

The Wildfire of May

Fire raging / El incendio
Fire raging / El incendio

 

 (Desplázase hacia abajo para ver el texto en español)

Dear Friends,

Welcome to our project to improve forest fire prevention and control in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve!

This project was prompted by a recent, devastating fire in the Sierra Gorda. Raging for three weeks, it affected over 3,250 hectares, home to endangered species such as jaguars, orchids, salamanders, margays, and ocelots. By destroying vegetation, the fire caused over 106,000 tons of CO2e to be released into the atmosphere.

Roberto Pedraza Ruiz writes, “The White-Fronted Parrot is one of the many endangered species affected by this big forest fire, especially considering that they were in the middle of their nesting season and had to leave their nests and chicks behind. They shared those forests with many other endangered species, from jaguar to margays, and the impact on biodiversity is difficult to measure.

The fire was probably provoked. It quickly got out of control and began to expand rapidly due to strong winds, high temperature, and dry forest conditions following a severe drought.

Many of the fire’s fronts were in remote and difficult to access areas. Federal funding cuts to the National Forestry Commission significantly limited federal firefighting resources. So although official firefighters, organized fire brigades, and volunteers all came together to combat the fire, it was only two weeks in that enough manpower was mobilized, including 7 helicopters, to finally control the blaze.

We are responding to this emergency to make sure that it does not repeat itself. We want to hire, equip, and organize local fire brigades to continually patrol the reserve, maintaining fire breaks and immediately responding to outbreaks. We cannot afford another such tragedy to hit the Sierra Gorda. Are you with us?

 

Estimados amigos,

¡Bienvenidos a nuestro proyecto para fortalecer a la prevención y combate a los incendios forestales en la Reserva de la Biosfera Sierra Gorda!

Este proyecto fue motivado por un reciente y devastador incendio en la Sierra Gorda. Durante tres semanas, afectó a más de 3.250 hectáreas, hogar de especies en peligro de extinción como jaguares, orquídeas, salamandras, márgenes y ocelotes. Al destruir la vegetación, el fuego provocó la liberación de más de 106,000 toneladas de CO2e a la atmósfera.

Roberto Pedraza Ruiz escribe: “El Loro Corona Blanca (Pionus senilis) es una de las muchas especies que fueron afectadas por el incendio, máxime ahora que se encuentran nidos activos y tuvieron que dejar ahí a sus pollos. Compartían esos bosques con ocelotes, margays, ajoles, salamandras, e incluso jaguares. El costo ambiental del incendio será difícil de evaluar y ponderar. El carbono emitido, ejemplares calcinados, las áreas donde la regeneración tomará años y las cadenas tróficas rotas es algo que no tiene fácil reparación. El tiempo dirá."

El incendio probablemente fue provocado. Se salió de control y comenzó a expandirse rápidamente debido a los fuertes vientos, las altas temperaturas y las condiciones del bosque seco después de una grave sequía.

Muchos de los frentes del incendio se encontraban en áreas remotas y de difícil acceso. Los recortes de fondos federales a la Comisión Nacional Forestal limitaron significativamente los recursos federales para combatir incendios. Por lo tanto, aunque bomberos oficiales, brigadas de bomberos organizados y voluntarios se juntaron para combatir el incendio, pasaron dos semanas para que se movilizara suficiente mano de obra, incluyendo a 7 helicópteros, para poder controlarlo.

Estamos respondiendo a esta emergencia para asegurarnos de que no se repita. Queremos contratar, equipar y organizar brigadas locales para patrullar continuamente la reserva, mantener las brechas de cortafuegos y responder de inmediato a los siniestros. No podemos permitir otra tragedia semejante en la Sierra Gorda. ¿Estás con nosotros?

Fire brigades working - Brigadas trabajando
Fire brigades working - Brigadas trabajando
Fighting the fire - Combatiendo el incendio
Fighting the fire - Combatiendo el incendio
What we are protecting - Lo que protegemos
What we are protecting - Lo que protegemos
White-Fronted Parrot - Loro Corona Blanca
White-Fronted Parrot - Loro Corona Blanca
Jun 3, 2019

The Singing Quails of the Sierra Gorda

Wikicommons attribution: Amado Demesa
Wikicommons attribution: Amado Demesa

Singing Quail

(Dactylortyx thoracicus)

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.

Protection Status

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.

 

References

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).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singing_quail

https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dactylortyx_thoracicus

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_World_quail

https://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/Species-Account/nb/species/sinqua1/references

May 22, 2019

Ocelots of the Sierra Gorda

Image captured by our Camera Traps
Image captured by our Camera Traps

Ocelot

(Leopardus pardalis)

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."

Protection Status

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).

Threats

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.

References:

http://www.catsg.org/index.php?id=88

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocelot

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/o/ocelot/

https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/11509/97212355

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.

 
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