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The Project: Endangered Mexican Wildlife

Mexico is one of the five most biologically diverse countries on earth, home to 1/10 of all land species, (many of which live nowhere else). EcologyFund is helping Pronatura (Mexico's largest conservation organization) and The Wildlands Project (Pronatura's partner in the Sierra Madre Mexican Thick-billed parrot project) protect some of Mexico's most endangered species by conserving imperiled habitats. The Nature Conservancy (www.nature.org) is helping Pronatura purchase the Cuatro Cienegas property.

  [ Picture, Thick Billed Parrot ]

Protect the Pozas Azules and the Cuatro Cienegas Basin
[ Picture, Poza Azule ]EcologyFund is helping Pronatura purchase 7,000 acres in the Cuatro Cienegas Valley, home to over 100 endemic animal and plant species. The basin features the incredible Pozas Azules, desert springs that support diverse wildlife in multi-colored sink hole ponds with unique species like the Cuatro Cienegas pupfish and cichlid, as well as living stromatolites. Fossil marine stromatolites provide the first evidence of life on Earth.

This area in central Coahuila in[ Picture, Great View ] Northern Mexico is famous for its unique aquatic and terrestrial habitats including tufa deposits, gypsum dunes, thermal and non-thermal springs, crystalline spring fed streams, cenotes (sinkholes), and marshes, located in a desert basin ringed by limestone Sierras topped by pine forests. There are numerous species of fish, turtles, snails and cacti found nowhere else, including 34 that are recognized by the Mexican government as needing special protection.

The Pozas Azules ("blue wells") comprise an extensive series of cenotes formed in gypsum deposits where ground water rises to within 3 - 6 ft. of the surface. The color of the pools varies with the depth (up to 40 ft.), bottom type, and water chemistry. Ones with a high percentage of organic material appear black, shallow springs with light bottoms are a transparent white, and deep ones with large amounts of dissolved solids are milky-blue from carbonates precipitated within their water column, (giving the area its name). Carbonate precipitation by algal communities in a number of cenotes forms stromatolites that may exceed 5 ft. "Their presence, living and abundant in the freshwaters of Pozas Azules is exceptional, immeasurably increasing the area's value for science, education, or tourism."-W.L. Minkley, Arizona State University 3/2000

Gypsum which has evaporated from the marshes and lagoons in the valley over thousands of years has blown into dunes that used to exceed 50 ft. in height, (now 20 ft. as a result of mining). There are only 2 other gypsum dunes in North America. Another result of a constant water supply over many thousands of years is the remarkable bio-diversity, including endemic species related to distant cousins in the tropics or Southern US and several relic populations of northern species that have survived here because of a stable source of water. "The antiquity of aquatic animals of a diversity of groups indicates considerable system age" - W. L. Minkley. Threats to the valley include gypsum mining in non-protected areas, livestock grazing, and irrigation for agriculture. Several fresh water fish species have become extinct because some lagoons have dried.

[ Picture, Dunes ]  

Because of the combination of spectacular bio-diversity caused by a constant water source in the desert, its numerous endemic species, and the rare geologic formations; 3/4 of all the money raised on Ecologyfund's Mexico project is used to purchase land in the Cuatro Cienegas Basin.

Protect Endangered Parrots
The second EcologyFund Mexican project preserves the nesting areas of the largest breeding population of the Mexican Thick-billed parrot. It is the joint work of Pronatura, The Wildlands Project based in Tucson, Arizona, and three other conservation groups who arranged a 15 year lease on 6,000 acres of undisturbed forest in the Sierra Madre Mountains, in order to prevent the area from being logged in 2002. By replacing the logging income with eco-tourism related to the parrots and old growth forest, the hope is that this will permanently save the species from extinction and allow their reintroduction to their former range in the "Sky Islands" (isolated mountain ranges surrounded by desert) in the American Southwest.

Less than 2% of the original forest in the Sierra Madre Occidental remains relatively undisturbed. Unfortunately, the Mexican Thick-billed parrot which lives in that forest, only nests above 7600 ft., which coincides with the most valuable timber species of the forest. This site, Cebadillas de Yaguirachic, was identified as the most important nesting area of the species and negotiations with Ejido Tutuaca, a rural forest cooperative, took two years. The Ejido leased the land in exchange for 1/2 of the income they would have received by logging it and assistance with developing other sustainable income streams including eco-tourism and sustainable forestry certification. This agreement should ensure that retaining the pristine forest has more value to the community than logging it at the end of the lease period.

Preserving this land will preserve the species, because conservationists are increasing the fledgling rate of wild nests in Cebadillas and transplanting parrots to other areas of Mexico where the low density of parrots is leading to a decline in reproductive success. It is hoped that parrots from Cebadillas will be used to reintroduce the Mexican Thick-billed parrot into its former range in the Sky Islands of Arizona and New Mexico.

Pronatura - 8.25 sq. ft. per sponsor.

To contribute to the Cuatro Cienegas campaign directly through the Nature Conservancy, visit their web site.

For more information:
- Pronatura (Spanish Version)
- Pronatura (English Version)
- The Wildlands Project - more info
- Nature Conservancy - more info
- Nature Conservancy - even more info
- Nature Conservancy - press article

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