May 30

Fifteen conservation groups have joined forces to save the Sierra Caral, an area of primary rainforest in Guatemala, in what is a remarkable conservation success story.

Photo of Morlet's tree frog

Morelet’s tree frog, one of the five Critically Endangered (CR) amphibians found in Sierra Caral

“The most important conservation area in Guatemala”

The new Sierra Caral Amphibian Reserve lies in the Guatemalan mountains on the border with Honduras, in a region that has been called the most important conservation area in Guatemala. The Sierra Caral is the single most biodiverse forest remnant in Caribbean Guatemala, and is home to an exceptionally large number of endemic amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates.

The Sierra Caral Amphibian Reserve supports five Critically Endangered (CR), five Endangered (EN), and two Vulnerable (VU) species of amphibian. Because the amphibian diversity of the Sierra Caral is so unique, it has also recently been listed as an Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) site.

Despite its obvious importance as a site of conservation priority, the Sierra Caral has been severely threatened in recent years by deforestation, illegal cross-border logging activities and expanding cattle ranching, which have rapidly fragmented the once continuous forest, placing it under enormous pressure.

Photo of the brook frog on a leaf

The Critically Endangered (CR) brook frog is found in the Sierra Caral

Banding together

The bid to save the Sierra Caral was led by FUNDAECO, a Guatemalan conservation group, who were partnered by fifteen other conservation organisations including Global Wildlife Conservation, Conservation International and the World Land Trust-US. By pooling their resources and raising the money required to purchase the land, these conservation partners have now paved the way for the government to provide the area with some much needed legal protection.

This major land purchase lifts the last hurdle for the Guatemalan government to declare the area a National Wildlife Sanctuary, something that local communities and conservationists have been desperately awaiting since 2000,” said Marco Cerezo, head of FUNDAECO, in a press release.

Preserving vital habitat

As well as being a haven for reptiles and amphibians, the Sierra Caral Amphibian Reserve also provides vital habitat for threatened bird species, including populations of the highland guan (Penelopina nigra), the great curassow (Crax rubra), and the keel-billed motmot (Electron carinatum), all of which are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

The forest is also an important stopping point along the migration route of hundreds of migratory bird species. In addition, the new reserve will play an important role in the ‘Jaguar Corridor Initiative‘, an initiative of the conservation organisation Panthera, which aims to preserve habitat for jaguars and other animals from Mexico to Argentina.

Male great curassow in forest habitat

The Sierra Caral is home to many other threatened species, such as the great curassow

This success story demonstrates how international alliances and local and national conservation leadership capacity can come together and protect unique species and habitats for future generations to enjoy,” said Claude Gascon, co-chair of the IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group.

Read the full story on Mongabay.comHerp paradise preserved in Guatemala

Find out more about some of the conservation organisations involved in preserving the Sierra Caral Amphibian Reserve:

Find out more about the Alliance for Zero Extinction

Explore more species found in Guatemala on ARKive

Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text Author