Saturday, May 29, 2010

SAVING WILD PLACES Maya Biosphere Reserve, Guatemala



Wildlife Discovery

©WCS Guatemala

The Maya Biosphere Reserve is a rainforest stronghold for jaguars, pumas, scarlet macaws, and howler monkeys. During the Northern Hemisphere winter, millions of migratory birds also take shelter here. The reserve is situated at the heart of the Selva Maya, a forested area that spans neighboring portions of Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico. It serves as a critical watershed for the surrounding communities and as a major carbon sink for the entire planet. As the epicenter of Maya civilization from 350 B.C. to 150 A.D., the forest’s 200 archeological sites draw tourists from around the world, bringing much needed revenue.

Fast Facts

* The Maya Biosphere Reserve includes three national parks: Tikal, Laguna del Tigre, and Mirador-Río Azul.
* Covering 8,100 square miles, the reserve protects the largest block of broadleaf forest north of the Amazon Basin.

Challenges

Guatemala is recovering from years of internal conflict, and the government has not strongly regulated the use of its natural resources. The reserve provides the country with 90 percent of its petroleum and timber. Roads built to facilitate timber and petroleum extraction allow access to the interior, and bring illegal human settlements, unsustainable land use policies, rampant hunting of wildlife, and annual burning of trees.

WCS Responds

WCS partners with local communities and governments to find innovative approaches to integrate development projects with the protection of natural and cultural resources, particularly sustainable forest management. We are also studying jaguars as part of a broader WCS effort to document and monitor the species’ populations across Mesoamerica. And we are fighting to save the Maya scarlet macaw population from extirpation caused by the pet trade. Our efforts to conserve scarlet macaws include nest protection, artificial nest construction, veterinary monitoring, and education initiatives.

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Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
View of Lake Atitlan and volcano from my apartment balcony in Panajachel. Taken by Catherine Todd June 2008.