Guatemalan Government Creates 47,00-acre Sierra Caral Protected Area

Guatemala

Guatemala’s National Congress created the Sierra Caral National Protected Area on May 13, making it the nation’s first federally protected area to be established in seven years. The core of the new 47,000-acre protected area is the Sierra Caral Amphibian Conservation Reserve which local conservation partner FUNDAECO created in 2012 with the support of more than twenty international conservation groups including Global Wildlife Conservation, Rainforest Trust, the Amphibian Survival Alliance, Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, International Conservation Fund of Canada, American Bird Conservancy and Conservation International.

“This area will fill an important conservation gap in the Guatemalan system of protected areas, and will ensure the conservation of many endemic and endangered amphibians in this globally recognized AZE (Alliance for Zero Extinction) site,” said Marco Cerezo, Director General of FUNDAECO.

“The Sierra Caral National Protected Area was created with the overwhelming support of Guatemala’s National Congress, with eighty-four percent of Congress voting in favour. The new protected area, which is nearly eight times the size of the original reserve, will provide additional legal protection and long-term sustainability for the reserve,” commented Dr. Don Church, GWC’s President and Director of Conservation.

The Sierra Caral is home to unique and threatened plants and animals found nowhere else on the planet, and its forests are an important part of the Mesoamerican corridor that allows jaguars and other animals to migrate between the American continents. Furthermore, these mountains hold the headwaters to rivers that local communities depend on and the forests prevent protection against landslides that pose a great risk to people in the region. The protection of the Sierra Caral by the Government of Guatemala heralds a bright future for the people and wildlife of this region.

“This accomplishment highlights the fact that our work doesn’t end with land purchase, rather it is the beginning of a process to ensure the land is permanently protected” noted Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust. “Our Guatemalan partner FUNDAECO has achieved an outstanding success that will securely protect one of our planet’s most biodiverse areas.”

The Sierra Caral, an isolated mountain range near Guatemala’s Caribbean coast, is not only home to many endemic species, but is also a natural corridor and meeting place for many North and South American species.

The protected area provides habitat for a dozen globally threatened amphibians – five found nowhere else in the world – and three species of threatened birds. Scientific explorations in the Sierra Caral have resulted in discoveries of new beetle, salamander, frog, and snake species.

Over the last 20 years, however, rampant clear-cutting has led to the loss of critical wildlife habitat in the Sierra Caral and reduced populations of local species. The protected area, which contains the last stands of primary forest found in the Sierra Caral, will protect some of the best remaining habitat in eastern Guatemala for jaguars, pumas, and other threatened species.

In a letter to FUNDAECO’s partners, Cerezo wrote, “I sincerely thank you for all the support that you have given us over the past few years, in order to achieve this exciting conservation outcome for Guatemala, Central America, and the whole planet!”

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Fast Facts

Location
Guatemala

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Goal
To secure the permanent protection of the Sierra Caral cloud forest.

Habitat
One of the most biodiverse forest remnants in Central America.

Flagship Species
Bolitoglossa dofleini, Duellmanohyla soralia,Plectroyhla sp.

Arboreal salamander, Bolitoglossa dofleini

Other Species
Jaguars, pumas, Merendon palm-pitviper and other Threatened species.

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Threats
Habitat fragmentation from ranching.

Action
Collect individual frogs and tadpoles from the Pita River to establish a captive assurance colony at Balsa de los Sapos, an amphibian ex situ conservation facility maintained by Universidad Católica del Ecuador while a plan is developed to return the species to its historic range.

The Partners
FUNDAECO, Global Wildlife Conservation, Rainforest Trust, the Amphibian Survival Alliance, Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, International Conservation Fund of Canada, American Bird Conservancy and Conservation International.

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