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27 July 2012 Mexico Hub Jaguar, bird monitoring and wildlife conservation in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico Mexico

is considered one of the top 17 mega-diverse countries in the World; together with Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Zaire, Madagascar, China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia they hold nearly 70% of the global species diversity.1 Mexico is ranked as number 2 of major number of reptile species, 3 in mammals, 5 in amphibians and vascular plants, and 8 in birds1. In order to contribute with this Countrys biodiversity conservation, GVI volunteering programs have been supporting different marine and terrestrial projects in the Yucatan Peninsula since 2003, through the establishment of different marine conservation and community development expeditions in the Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve, Tulum and Mahahual.

In 2008, the support was extended to El Eden Ecological Reserves (EEER) research on jaguar and wildlife conservation. EEER is a private area that counts with more than 1500 ha of forest and wetlands; it has a lot of different habitats and wildlife such as: migrant birds, several mammals, reptiles and amphibians species; it is part of the biological corridor of Yum Balam-Sian Kaan, which is critical for the conservation of important species in the area such as the jaguar.

The jaguar is an endangered species and the largest feline in America. Despite its a protected species the numbers of individuals have diminished more than half over the past century2. The major threats to this species are hunting and the reduction of natural habitats due to the expansion of urban areas, agricultural land and highways which cut their normal pathways as they need large extensions of land to Fig.1. El Eden Ecological Reserve location, live and hunt. Therefore, the location of El Eden Ecological http://reservaeleden.org/location/whereweare.htm reserve is vital for jaguar conservation within the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (MBC). The MBC is a system of land planning, consisting of four types of natural areas: core areas, which are exclusively for the conservation of ecosystems and species and in which human activities are prohibited; buffer zones, which are of restricted use by themselves; corridors, which are areas that facilitate movement, dispersal and migration of species, and in which human activities are of low impact.3 The first stage of this conservation project comprises a census on the population, reproductive events and migration of jaguars and wild cats as well as the abundance of prey available. GVI volunteers have been helping out setting up and servicing camera traps, as well as identifying animals and entering data to the EEER data base.
Fig. 2 GVI volunteer setting up a camera trap.

So far, around 46 species of mammals have been recorded within the Reserve through incidental sightings, prints, feces and camera traps, the latter proving to be a very effective method to detect mammals that are difficult to observe. Moreover, five out of the six species of felids living in Mexico have being recorded living in EEER, and some other species have been identified under the NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010 (Official Mexican Standard, compulsory standards and regulations for diverse activities in Mexico) as rare, endemic, or of ecological importance. After 2 years of partnership between EEER and GVI, June 2012, marked the start of the second stage of this program. While it continues adding data on jaguar and wild animals through the camera traps mainly, it has added two new programs: Bird identification and monitoring, and reforestation and recovery of burnt areas. Volunteers and researchers are setting up mist nets in different key points in order to detect species that are not registered using normal visual and auditory methods. They are also working on growing and planting endemic plants to recover different forest areas that were lost during the fires in 2011.
Fig. 3 Jaguar caught by a camera trap shot

All in all, the program aims to be a research model for conservation, management and restoration of biodiversity, ecosystems and ecological processes of the Mesoamerican tropical rain forests.

Fig 4. GVI volunteers setting up mist nets for bird monitoring

Sources: 1. Mexican Biodiversity, What is a megadiverse country?; CONABIO (Comisin de biodiversidad de Mxico), http://www.biodiversidad.gob.mx/v_ingles/country/whatismegcountry.html; July, 2012 2. Mexican Biodiversity, Categoras de riesgo en Mxico, CONABIO (Comisin de biodiversidad de Mxico);http://www.biodiversidad.gob.mx/especies/catRiesMexico.html; July 2012 3. Mexican Biodiversity, Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, CONABIO (Comisin de biodiversidad de Mxico); http://www.biodiversidad.gob.mx/v_ingles/corridor/mesoamericanCor1.html; July, 2012