Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Tropical Forest and Wetlands, Guatemala

Sarstún Laguna by Marco Cereza

World Land Trust is saving threatened wetland habitat and tropical forest in Guatemala by supporting reserves in Caribbean Guatemala and in the western highlands. 

WLT also funds the ongoing protection of Laguna Grande-Sarstún Reserve through the Keepers of the Wild programme.

Find out how the WLT is protecting forest and wetlands in Guatemala...

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Project aim

WLT is raising funds through the Keepers of the Wild Appeal to support a ranger, Ricardo Caal, to work within the Laguna Grande-Sarstún Reserve. Ricardo has been with the reserve since 2011, where his main role is to patrol the protected area, on foot and by canoe, to make sure there is no hunting or illegal removal of timber. 



How WLT is helping

Working in partnership with FUNDAECO, WLT has helped create four reserves in Guatemala. WLT now continues to raise funds to support a ranger for the ongoing protection of Laguna Grande-Sarstún Reserve.

Urgent funding needed

This project is supported through the Keepers of the Wild Appeal. 

Donate to Keepers of the Wild »

A West Indian Manatee is listed as Vulnerable, however the Antillean subspecies is listed as Endangered. © Germanico Barrios

Biodiversity: Guatemala’s lowland and inundated tropical forests


As many as 57 endemic species.


49 species including three endemic Salamanders.


84 species including: the Neotropical Otter (Lutra longicaudis), Mexican Black Howler Monkey (Alouatta pigra), Baird’s Tapir (Tapirus bairdii), West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus) and five species of big cat including Jaguar (Panthera onca). 


Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja), Mangrove Swallow (Tachycineta albilinea) and Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens).

The area is also a very important stop over and breeding site for migratory birds. More than 100 species of migratory birds visit Guatemala’s Caribbean forests during the northern hemisphere winter, 19 of which are in decline in North America. 

Biodiversity: Guatemala’s western highlands

Refer to individual reserves (below) for details of biodiversity in Guatemala’s western highlands

Learn more about species in our reserves »

Threats to Caribbean Guatemala

  • Lowland and inundated tropical forests of the Caribbean Region of Guatemala have almost all disappeared with less than 20% of their original surface still remaining
  • The greatest threats to this area include: cattle ranching and loss of land to agriculture

​Threats to the western highlands of Guatemala

  • Population growth and subsistence agriculture are driving deforestation in the region and more than 60 per cent of the montane tropical forest of northern Huehuetenango has disappeared within the past 30 years
  • Clearing forest for intensive coffee production is also a threat
The Rio Sarstún
The Rio Sarstún and surrounding forest and lagoons. © FUNDAECO

The reserves

Laguna Grande Sarstún

Total area supported by WLT: 1,668 acres (675 hectares)

Laguna Grande Sarstún Reserve is located within an area of tropical forest and wetland considered to be the single largest remnant of lowland and inundated tropical rainforest in Caribbean Guatemala. The reserve is just south of the border with Belize.

The property is located right at the centre of the largest contiguous riparian forest on the Guatemalan side of the Rio Sarstún, in an area that encompasses a unique system of lagoons, mangroves, inundated forests, lowland forests, and karstic mountain forests between sea level and 385 metres above sea level.

FUNDAECO aims to provide alternative employment and income generating opportunities for the local Q´eqchí communities located south of the reserve, thus reducing the long term possibilities of encroachment for illegal resource extraction.

Local people are very much part of this project and FUNDAECO works closely with the nearest community to the reserve, where they are carrying out two development projects: Training of Q’eqchí women as tourism caterers; and aquaculture of native species of fish with local fishermen.

Map of Laguna Grande Sarstún Reserve »

Tapon Creek

Total area supported by WLT: 816 acres (330 hectares)

In all Tapon Creek Reserve covers 1,674 acres (677 hectares). Tapon Creek lies within the designated Río Sarstún Multiple Use Area and shares many of the characteristics of Laguna Grande Sarstún Reserve.

FUNDAECO owns and manages the land as part of its network of reserves across Guatemala. FUNDAECO has also registered the reserve as a Private Natural Reserve within the national system of protected areas.

Laguna Brava

Total area supported by WLT: 1,186 acres (480 hectares)

Laguna Brava is in the western highlands of Guatemala. The lake - known locally as Yolnabaj - takes up just under half the area of the property. The remainder is made up of some of the last remnants of the region’s montane tropical karst forest on the northern, southern and eastern side of the lake.

The area is rich in amphibians. It is home to three species of tree frog that are listed as Critically Endangered by IUCN: Perkins’ Tree Frog (Exerodonta Perkinsi), Ptychohyla hypomykter and Plectrohyla ixil. Perkins’ Tree Frog is also endemic to this region of Guatemala and an Alliance for Zero Extinction species.

Another rare amphibian is Lincoln’s Climbing Salamander (Bolitoglossa Lincolni), which is registered as Near Threatened.

The forest surrounding the lagoon hosts 72 different bird species including the Highlands Guan (Penelopina nigra), and the Pink-headed Warbler (Ergaticus versicolor), both registered by IUCN as Vulnerable.

San Isidro

Total area supported by WLT: 885 acres (358 hectares).

The purchase of Finca San Isidro in the western highlands of Guatemala was finalised by FUNDAECO in September 2015. In total the whole reserve measures 2,279 acres (922 hectares).

Located in Huehuetenango Department, the reserve is a priority for conservation because it is an Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) site, and a vital habitat for endemic and highly threatened amphibians.

A recent amphibian assessment for San Isidro identified several amphibians classified by IUCN as Critically Endangered: Finca Chiblac Salamander (Bradytriton silus), an endemic from Cuchumatanes; Plectrohyla ixil, an endemic from Guatemala-Chiapas; Hartweg’s Spikethumb Frog (Plectrohyla hartwegi); and Black-eyed Leaf Frog (Agalychnis moreletii). Also recorded was an endemic frog, Craugastor xucanebi, classified by IUCN as Vulnerable. The reserve is also known to protect Long-limbed Salamander (Nyctanolis pernix), categorised by IUCN as Endangered.

High in Guatemala’s Cuchumatanes mountain range, the forest home had been slated for coffee production. Land clearance would have certainly gone ahead if it hadn’t been for the intervention of international funders.

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