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Large Oak tree at Canon del Fresno

Jaguars, Pumas and Margays find extra safety in the ancient foliage of Mexico’s forest as more threatened habitat is purchased through World Land Trust (WLT) funding

Large Oak tree at Canon del Fresno

One of the large oaks on the Cañón del Fresno Reserve. Some of the acorns can reach 10cm in length and provide food for the local Coatis. Photo © Roberto Pedraza Ruiz.

A new wildlife reserve has been created in central Mexico’s Sierra Gorda region, the most ecologically diverse area in the country. The 370 acre (150 hectare) reserve, managed by World Land Trust (WLT) partner organisation Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda (GESG), is a key new purchase in extending GESG’s network of wildlife reserves in the region. Roberto Pedraza, from GESG, said:

“This is great news, for a great place! Jaguars, Pumas, Ocelots and Margays are regular inhabitants of the area and the forest harbours a high diversity of old trees and huge rocks that often stretch above the canopy. It’s a weird and beautiful forest.”

The GESG team is only just beginning to explore some areas of their new reserve, known as the Cañón del Fresno (Ash Canyon), and are often surprised by the amazing variety of flora they encounter. Roberto said: “One part of the reserve is a crazy-mix of temperate and tropical elements: Pines, Oaks, Sweetgums and Elms, mixed with Strangler Figs, Burseras (flowering shrubs) and other trees of tropical forests.” While exploring this area the GESG team came across what they believe to be a new population of Mexican Elms (Ulmus mexicana) for Sierra Gorda, which they are in process of confirming. They also found fresh Brocket Deer tracks, and saw flocks of Crested Guans and Singing Quails. In the distance they heard the endangered Bearded Wood-partridge, an endemic to Mexico whose population is suffering a rapid decline through habitat loss and degradation, except in the remote Sierra Gorda.


A Cycad growing on the beautifully diverse Cañón del Fresno Reserve, recently protected with WLT funding. Photo © Roberto Pedraza Ruiz.

In some areas of the reserve the team discovered that without a good guide it is very easy to get lost in the dense foliage and difficult terrain. Roberto said: “It’s a tangle of huge rocks crowned by big fig trees, divided by more sharp rocks, sinkholes and crevices.” Roberto was particularly struck by an impressive rock formation they came across; a huge natural arch in a rock 25 meters high – he had never seen anything like it before. After ‘escaping’ from this area they climbed to the next ridge, where lots of young pines were growing among old growth Cycads. Cycads are known as ‘living fossils’ because they have remained unchanged for millions of years. They are scientifically important because they may represent a link in the evolution from ferns to flowering plants. It is thought that they have been in decline ever since the flowering plants became dominant, some 100 million years ago, and now most species are rare. Roberto photographed some Cycads with trunks that stretched at least one meter high; on average they grow one millimetre a year, making these ones about 1,000 years old. The extreme terrain and diverse mix of species, with young flora growing alongside ancient endangered species, gives the forest an ethereal and beautiful quality. Roberto said: “The sharp changes in the ecosystem seem to be painted with a clear line – it’s very impressive!”

More information about WLT’s work in Mexico

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