Mantener intactos los carnívoros, la conectividad y la cultura en la Moskitia de Mesoamérica

Por John Polisar

A principios del 2017, participé en un estudio ecológico dirigido por Conservation International para evaluar los atributos biológicos del sitio arqueológico en Honduras conocido como Ciudad Blanca, o la Ciudad Perdida del Dios Mono. El área era tan remota que nos transportaron en helicóptero. Caminamos a través de ríos y cumbres montañosas y, de este modo, obtuvimos la mayor cantidad de información posible, luego dejamos las cámaras trampa instaladas en el área para que las retiraran en helicóptero seis meses después.

Le dije al equipo que había visto rastros de pecaríes de labios blancos debajo del denso camino del sotobosque río abajo. Sabiendo que este animal parecido a un cerdo, diseminado ampliamente en el pasado, actualmente se ha erradicado en un 87 por ciento de su área de distribución original en América Central, el equipo expresó dudas sobre que estuvieran allí. Seis meses después, las imágenes de las cámaras trampa mostraban manadas marchando a través de arroyos y senderos, casi en todas partes.

PECARÍES DE LABIOS BLANCOS, CIUDAD PERDIDA, RESERVA DE LA BIÓSFERA DEL RÍO PLÁTANO, HONDURAS. CRÉDITOS DE LA FOTOGRAFÍA: WSU/CI/ICF/PANTHERA/WCS.

Tales avistamientos en Mesoamérica son bastante poco frecuentes. La aparición de este animal en este sitio, que no había sido visitado por seres humanos durante 500 años, señala a Ciudad Blanca como una joya. Pero no permanecerá así sin esfuerzos previsores de conservación a gran escala.

Honduras ha rebautizado el sitio como la “Ciudad Perdida del Jaguar” basada en las antiguas esculturas de jaguares encontradas por los arqueólogos, así como también la presencia de jaguares vivos registrados por las cámaras trampa este año. Se encuentra en el corazón del Corredor Biológico Mesoamericano de Honduras y Nicaragua, también conocido como el Corredor Forestal de Moskitia, uno de los cinco bloques forestales más grandes que quedan en América Central.

FABRICIO DÍAZ SANTOS ENTRENA A LOS COLABORADORES ACERCA DE CÓMO USAR LAS CÁMARAS TRAMPA, RESERVA DE LA BIÓSFERA DE BOSAWÁS, NICARAGUA. CRÉDITOS DE LA FOTOGRAFÍA: BRADEN GUNEM.

Las escarpadas crestas de esta región aún albergan especies silvestres en peligro a nivel regional, como el gran guacamayo verde, y proporcionan un hábitat invernal esencial para muchas especies de aves migratorias. La mayoría de los valles están ocupados por los grupos indígenas Miskito, Mayangna, Pech y Tawahka. Desafortunadamente, al menos el 30 por ciento de la cobertura forestal en Moskitia se perdió entre el 2000 y el 2015, principalmente debido a las operaciones ganaderas que convirtieron el bosque primario en pastura.

Sin embargo, los jaguares y los pecaríes de labios blancos continúan existiendo según los estudios de las cámaras trampa realizados por WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) en la Reserva de la Biosfera Bosawás de Nicaragua durante la última década, y ahora se verificaron durante la expedición al sitio de Ciudad Perdida.

Para mantener sus poblaciones en desarrollo, los conservacionistas, los administradores de parques y los gobiernos deben mantener grandes bloques de bosques y mantenerlos conectados.

RECORRIDO POR EL RÍO BOCAY, TERRITORIO DE MAYANGNA SAUNI BU, RESERVA DE LA BIÓSFERA DE BOSAWÁS, NICARAGUA. CRÉDITOS DE LA FOTOGRAFÍA: BRADEN GUNEM.

Un esfuerzo reciente para evaluar el estado de la Moskitia involucró a un grupo de estudiantes de posgrado aventureros de la Environmental Protection Clinic de la Universidad de Yale, quienes se unieron en mi viaje por el río Coco en Nicaragua y el río Patuca en Honduras. Uno de los principales objetivos era “realizar una observación directa” de los rápidos cambios que ocurren en la frontera más salvaje de Mesoamérica, y explorar cómo se puede mantener intacto el bosque compartido que atravieza las fronteras nacionales.

Nuestro viaje de investigación incluyó conversaciones con rancheros y líderes indígenas, reuniones en centros comunitarios remotos y debates con el personal de la agencia de conservación principal. Los participantes en ambos países se mostraron muy interesados en la conservación y conectividad de los bosques y la vida silvestre (hábitat ininterrumpido distribuido en un paisaje determinado, que cruza a menudo las fronteras nacionales). Sin embargo, las últimas posibilidades para conectar las zonas silvestres centrales en los dos países cada vez son menos.

JAGUAR, TERRITORIO DE KIPLA SAIT TASBAIKA, RESERVA DE LA BIÓSFERA BOSAWÁS, NICARAGUA, CRÉDITOS DE LA FOTOGRAFÍA: FABRICIO DIAZ SANTOS/WCs.

Un avance clave en el estudio fue la identificación de cuatro bandas estrechas (“puntos de atasco”) que son cruciales para mantener la conectividad entre las zonas centrales.

Una gran amenaza para los bosques en esta región es la expansión descontrolada de la ganadería, que ha convertido el bosque en pastura a lo largo de las áreas protegidas del río Coco. Los ranchos en Honduras utilizan el rio para llevar el ganado a los mataderos. Más recientemente, se construyó una carretera en el Parque Nacional Patuca de Honduras para transportar ganado a través de las montañas hasta el río Patuca y de allí a los mataderos.

DANTO O TAPIR CENTROAMERICANO, RESERVA DE LA BIÓSFERA DE BOSAWÁS, NICARAGUA. CRÉDITOS DE LA FOTOGRAFÍA: Fabricio Diaz Santos/WCS.

Revertir estas pérdidas recientes y cada vez más extendidas parece ser un desafío abrumador. Las medidas tomadas ahora pueden detener la marea, mantener los bosques intactos y proteger el bosque que rodea la Ciudad Perdida. Lo que es importante recordar es que las soluciones de conservación pueden ser económicamente productivas, y los sitios arqueológicos tienen un enorme potencial turístico. Hay ejemplos de sistemas de sombra del cacao que mezclan maderas duras, plátanos y cacao en el valle del río Patuca en Honduras, lugares que los pecaríes y los jaguares pueden llamar hogar.

El trabajo para salvaguardar Moskitia ya ha comenzado. Con el apoyo de la Fundación Darwin y American Bird Conservancy, llevamos adelante proyectos piloto que mezclan bosques y pastos en ambos países. Una posible solución para proteger los bosques sería requerir un 50 por ciento de cobertura forestal y prohibir la caza de vida silvestre para cualquier operación ganadera ubicada dentro de uno de los puntos de atasco.

MAZAMA, CIUDAD PERDIDA, RESERVA DE LA BIÓSFERA DEL RÍO PLÁTANO, HONDURAS. CRÉDITOS DE LA FOTOGRAFÍA: WCS/CI/WSU/ICF.

La Ciudad Perdida representa lo mejor de las tierras altas de Moskitia, un ecosistema forestal diverso lleno de especies icónicas. Salvar estas maravillas naturales restantes dependerá de desacelerar, y finalmente detener, la marea de deforestación e implementar soluciones de conservación que protejan las conexiones vitales para los jaguares y los pecaríes, y los bosques que ellos habitan.

————————————
John Polisar
es el coordinador de jaguares para WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society).

Originally posted 2018-07-22 02:34:27.

Saving a Crown Jewel

This article is brought to you by the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP). Read our other articles on the National Geographic Voices blog featuring the work of our iLCP Fellow Photographers all around the world.

Text and Photos by iLCP Fellow Krista Schlyer

On a late January afternoon the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge trails are quiet, aside from the curve-billed thrashers, Carolina wrens and black-crested titmice calling through a fresh north wind. I came here today for an hour of respite before boarding a plane back home to Washington DC. I have been here many times before, but today held a special significance. Today may be the last time I see this wild haven before it is destroyed.

Saturday, January 27, was the 75th anniversary of the creation of Santa Ana, and a thousand people came to celebrate the refuge and protest the border wall construction that would destroy it. The refuge was set aside in 1943 because agriculture and flood control measures were erasing the native habitat in South Texas. As the native landscape disappeared, so did the rich diversity of birds that had called the Lower Rio Grande Valley Home. This valley was historically a Mecca for birds, butterflies and all manner of insects, and tropical cats like the jaguar, ocelot and jaguarundi. Situated in the transition area between the tropical and temperate zones, this land is a melting pot of the north and south of the natural world.

But today, less than 5 percent of the native habitat remains. Jaguars are gone. Ocelots and jaguarundis are critically endangered. Many bird species disappeared, yet, more than 500 different species continue to cling to the remnant habitat that has been saved under the National Wildlife Refuge System and private preserves. Santa Ana is the largest and most important of those remnant islands of habitat in an ocean of human development. Its value defies measure, which is why it is often referred to as the crown jewel of the wildlife refuge system.

But Santa Ana is also the first target for border wall construction if Congress approves funding. A border wall would bisect the refuge and scrape the vegetation from a large swath of land for an enforcement zone. The decision could be made in the next 10 days.

To try to help people see the immeasurable value of Santa Ana, I wrote a poem and worked with some talented filmmakers Jenny Nichols, Allison Otto, and Morgan Heim, to make a short film called Ay Santa Ana.

There are some places in this world where life and beauty effervesce from the ground itself, places we simply cannot lose.

There are some places in this world where life and beauty effervesce from the ground itself, places we simply cannot lose. There are landscapes where lines must be drawn in the proverbial sand and we must say, no, you will not take this from the world. Not on our watch. Many such places exist in the US-Mexico borderlands, and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is one. Here is a place people will lay down their bodies to protect.

Some members of Congress and even editorials in the Washington Post have suggested that sacrificing the border landscape for the sake of political compromise is worth it. I think those politicians and political writers must never have seen Santa Ana or any of the wild places and beautiful people who call the borderlands home. People are often willing to sacrifice what they do not understand.

As I was leaving Santa Ana I chanced upon a common paraque perfectly camouflaged upon the forest floor. It had been sleeping, but when I arrived it roused and looked up at me. This beautiful bird, and thousands of other species who depend on Santa Ana, and on lands all across the borderlands, are looking to us to be a voice for them. To tell those in Washington DC who would sacrifice their very futures, that the borderlands is a home, not a bargaining chip.

Please help members of Congress understand by sharing this blog and film.

The number for the Congressional switchboard is: 202-224-3121

For more information about the peril currently posed to the US-Mexico Borderlands, visit my web story: Embattled Borderlands

Originally posted 2018-02-05 14:14:30.

Jaguar Conservation on the Continental Scale

By John Polisar

As a college student, my summer wages were earned clearing trails in the premier wilderness areas of the American Mountain West. From the mountaintops, I could look across 360-degree vistas and not see a hint of a road. The areas with grizzlies felt different than those without.

In his short stories, Thinking Like a Mountain and Escudilla, Aldo Leopold notes the same; without wolves and grizzly bears, the king carnivores of the North, something is missing. Intact ecosystems always contain their top carnivores. It’s good when humans sense a power that is greater than their own. In tropical America, that force is the jaguar.

Following college, I became a wildlife biologist. My dissertation was done on a productive cattle ranch on the plains of Venezuela. With 10,000 head of cattle distributed across almost 200,000 acres and a tourism business, Hato Piñero was a working model of integrated development and conservation. Twenty years later, it still has jaguars, peccaries, caimans—a feat accomplished by retaining as much forest as pasture, controlling hunting, and practicing tolerance for the big cat, using tools for coexistence.

Caught on a camera trap, a jaguar in Paraguay’s largest national park, the 7000km ² Defensores del Chaco. Photo credit: WCS Laura Villalba/Maria del Carmen Fleytas, WCS Paraguay.

There is space for us and the jaguar. We need large wild areas to keep the planet alive, and our spirit as well. We also need to manage productive landscapes with an understanding that we humans are not the only inhabitants that rely on them. We must thrive, but we also need to keep a place for the plants and animals of the natural world. From them, we draw planetary and spiritual sustenance.

We can see such an approach at the ongoing 2018 Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity. There, all the jaguar range countries have united to execute a 2030 Jaguar Conservation Roadmap with the expressed goal of ensuring the viability of core population strongholds and corridors between them, nationally and range-wide.

The Roadmap integrally links United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (sustainably managed forests, halted land degradation and biodiversity loss, and responsible production) with jaguar conservation. It also emphasizes the importance of incorporating jaguar conservation in development plans for energy, agriculture, and transportation expansion with the goal of no net losses for jaguars and no net losses for biodiversity.

This feat will not be easy, but it’s possible. As coordinator for the Jaguar Program for WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), I work with a team that is responsible for supporting about 385,000 square miles for jaguars. All are threatened. Deforestation alone eats up to two percent a year. That’s 22 percent in ten years. Thirty-three percent in 20. We live to slow that down, and to increase jaguar populations.

The number one threat to biological diversity in much of jaguar range is uncontrolled expansion of cattle operations into biodiversity rich protected areas. Photo credit: ©David Medina.

Protected areas are critical, safe, conflict-free homes for America’s largest cat. However, research we have done in productive, selectively logged forests—on well-managed ranches and in well-defended indigenous territories—has demonstrated that humans and jaguars can coexist.

Among the areas we help protect, thousands of square miles in Guatemala are well-managed, certified sustainably harvested forest lands. One thousand square miles are productive ranches with forests in Paraguay. Hundreds of thousands of square miles in countries like Peru, Bolivia, and Honduras are indigenous territories, areas whose inhabitants value the services their forest homes provide and seek to preserve traditional lifestyles within intact landscapes.

Where forest products are extracted, or livestock maintained, a careful approach can help humans avoid conflict with carnivores. Thousands of square miles where we work is uninhabited wilderness, including national parks, where humans are only brief visitors and where—for now—nature reigns.

Almost every significant jaguar stronghold from Mexico through Argentina is transboundary.  Transboundary conservation can be accomplished when each country’s protected and managed areas are working well and effectively united with their neighbors’ reserves.

A jaguar cooling down in a pool deep in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve. Photo credit: Rony Garcia/WCS Guatemala.

Global conservation institutions have helped ignite this week’s new initiative—Panthera, WCS, the World Wildlife Fund, and the United Nations Development Programme. This unprecedented commitment by range countries to ensure that jaguar populations are stable or increasing will be celebrated on the world’s first International Jaguar Day on November 29.

Right now, the momentum behind the 2030 Jaguar Conservation Roadmap is growing across the jaguar’s range. It’s gathering strength through unified national commitments and transboundary visions to accomplish successful coexistence of humans with the power of the wild world—the jaguar. Both will benefit.

——————————-
Dr. John Polisar is the coordinator for the Jaguar Conservation Program at WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society).


Photo
(top): Mileniusz Spanowicz/WCS

Back
HAVE A QUICK QUESTION?

If so simply fill in our quick form and one of our team will contact you a.s.a.p

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Your Message
* Please add as many details as you can.

X
CONTACT US