Ecoregion: Petèn-Veracruz Moist Forests
Key Species: Chinamacoch Stream Frog, Ocelot, Golden-cheeked Warbler, King Vulture, Craugastor trachydermus, Baird’s Tapir, Black Howler Monkey
The mountain range of Sierra Santa Cruz is the last unprotected rainforest in Caribbean Guatemala, and is home to a real treasure chest of species, from big cats and vultures to endemic frogs and scarab beetles.
Working with FUNDAECO, World Land Trust (WLT) is helping create a reserve of 2,500 acres (1,000 hectares) protecting the core rainforest in the centre of this mountain range.
Deforestation surrounds the mountains of Sierra Santa Cruz and is creeping up the slopes. Most of this land has been converted into African Oil Palm plantations or cattle ranches.
Guatemala is one of the best places in the world to produce Palm Oil, a highly saturated vegetable fat which is used in approximately half of all packaged food worldwide. Due to the high demand and Guatemala’s exceptionally high yield from the crop plant African Oil Palm, the industry in this country has been growing rapidly and has been putting a lot of pressure on clearing unprotected forests.
Forests are also cleared to make way for cattle ranches, as Guatemala produces beef for local consumption and exports to neighbouring countries.
The tropical rainforests of Caribbean Guatemala are rich with biodiversity and unique, endangered wildlife which cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
The Santa Cruz Mountains are home to 142 mammal species, including several cats such as Ocelot, Puma, Margay and Jaguar, and three mammals that are classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Baird’s Tapir, Black Howler Monkey and Black-handed Spider Monkey. There are also 78 species of bat, including two species of Vampire Bat (Desmodus rotundus and Diphylla ecaudata).
Caribbean Guatemala is a hotspot for American bird diversity, with 207 ‘resident’ birds recorded in Santa Cruz, including Great Curassow, Keel-billed Motmot and Ornate Hawk-Eagle. It is also an incredibly important habitat for migrating birds, including Endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler, Mississippi Kite and Blackburnian Warbler.
More than a third of the amphibian species in Sierra Santa Cruz are threatened on the IUCN Red List, and three of these are Critically Endangered: Black-eyed Leaf Frog, Chinamococh Stream Frog and a rough-skinned frog with no English name (Craugastor trachydermus).