On 13th May, the National Congress of Guatemala declared Sierra Caral as a National Protected Area – a huge success for Carlos Vasquez Almazan who won a Whitley Award in 2012 for his work to rally local support and gather scientific information to secure protection of the Sierra Caral and the unique amphibians that live there.
Located on the border between Guatemala and Honduras, the Sierra Caral is one of the largest and most biodiverse remaining cloud forests in Central America. It is home to an astonishing array of insects, reptiles and birds and has been repeatedly identified as the number one conservation priority in the country. However, it is being lost at an alarming rate as a result of deforestation and expanding agriculture and is the one of the most threatened forests in Guatemala.
The new reserve is the first protected area to be declared by the Guatemalan Congress in over seven years. It covers 190km2 and fills an important conservation gap in the Guatemalan System of Protected Areas. It will help to and ensure the conservation of 10 endangered amphibians, of which 4 are endemic; as well as providing a critical refuge for 120 Neotropical migratory birds in this globally recognised Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) Site. The recently established Amphibian Conservation Reserve, which was a direct result of Carlos’ work, will be a declared Core Zone of the new Protected Area, providing additional legal protection and long term sustainability.
This news is also vital for local and wider communities as the Sierra Caral provides important environmental services, including potable water for 22 communities, the protection of critical watersheds for hydroelectric energy, sustainable timber production, landscapes for ecotourism and globally important carbon sinks.