A jewel of biodiversity
Mesoamerica—which stretches from Mexico to Colombia—covers only 0.5% of the planet, but it accounts for 7% of its biodiversity.
The world’s third-largest Biodiversity Hotspot, Mesoamerica, is home to mountain ranges, tumbling rivers, and forests of astonishing diversity. Its ecosystems are strongholds for threatened and Endangered species including Jaguars, Baird’s Tapirs, Spider Monkeys, Central American River Turtles and Great Green Macaws. Many of the billions of North American migratory birds fly through Mesoamerica or stop for the winter.
It is also a bastion for Indigenous peoples, such as the Miskitu, Rama, and Emberá. Indigenous peoples are the guardians of Mesoamerica’s forests; keeping forests healthy and protecting their wildlife.
Ensuring the wildlife and wildlands of Mesoamerica thrive along with its people is critical to global efforts to mitigate climate change, stabilize local ecosystems, and protect cultures and languages that are a unique part of our human heritage.
Re:wild works with local and indigenous communities, local NGOs, rangers, governments, as well as impassioned and committed individuals across the region to protect and restore its biodiversity.
The projects we support vary from protecting specific species, to rewilding the largest intact forests, to conducting surveys, to ensuring the wellbeing of forest rangers. Our flexibility allows us to respectfully and effectively engage the right partners at the right scale needed to mitigate the unique set of threats facing a species, ecosystem, protected area, or Indigenous territory. We work toward ensuring a safe future for the cultural, linguistic, and biological diversity that makes Mesoamerica one of the most amazing places on Earth.
Across Mesoamerica, many Indigenous groups struggle with maintaining their rights to their ancestral lands and protecting them from encroaching development, largely driven by cattle ranching. We work with Indigenous communities and groups to support their efforts to secure their land and confront the biggest threats.
In Nicaragua’s Indio Maíz Biological Reserve, we worked with the Rama and Kriol communities to develop an autonomous system of management for the 80% of the reserve that falls within their ancestral lands. We helped establish an autonomous ranger force, helped implement patrols using the best technology in wildlife crime prevention, developed a system for financial administration, and created a comprehensive visual management plan.
Rewilding the Five Great Forests
We work closely with regional partners to implement large-scale programs to protect the five largest intact forests in Mesoamerica: the Maya Forest in Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize; the Moskitia in Nicaragua and Honduras; the Indio Maíz-Tortuguero in Nicaragua and Costa Rica; the Talamanca Region in Costa Rica and Panama; and the Darien in Panama and Colombia.
In Honduras’s Moskitia region, we have worked with Wildlife Conservation Society and the Kaha Kamasa Foundation to create an unprecedented consortium of Indigenous, NGO and government partners to protect this irreplaceable landscape and its unique and threatened natural and cultural heritage.
Protecting Vulnerable Key Biodiversity Areas and Threatened Species
We work to find strategies to protect Key Biodiversity Areas and Endangered species across Mesoamerica. When appropriate, we work with partner organizations to purchase lands and convert them into protected areas. We also collaborate to design regional approaches to prevent wildlife crime and improve local management of these irreplaceable areas. Together, with these partners, we design and implement strategies to rewild forests and protect wildlife in them. The main areas where we work are: Sierra Caral, Cuchumatanes and the Maya Forest.
In Guatemala, Re:wild led an international partnership of NGOs to enable a local group to purchase and protect 6,000 acres of primary rainforest in the Sierra Caral, home to a dozen threatened amphibians and the recently discovered Merendon Palm Pit Viper. Guatemala’s National Congress built on this unprecedented success to create the 47,000 acre Sierra Caral National Protected Area.
In partnership with FUNDAECO, World Land Trust, Rainforest Trust, the International Conservation Fund of Canada, and the Amphibian Survival Alliance, Re:wild helped establish the Yal Unin Yul Witz Natural Reserve in the Cuchumatanes mountain range of Guatemala. This marked the first protected area in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. It is the first amphibian reserve in the Cuchumatanes Mountains, home to three salamanders rediscovered after being lost to science. Re:wild continues to work to expand this network of protected areas in Guatemala.
Maya Forest Corridor
Re:wild and our partners have identified at least 50,000 acres of forest that need to be protected to keep the Maya Forest Corridor alive. The corridor is a tiny tract of forest that is the last connection between the Maya Mountains in Belize and Selva Maya in Guatemala, Mexico and Belize. Of that total, 10,000 acres are protected by private landowners, non-governmental organizations and governments. The other 40,000 acres are privately owned, and Re:wild and our partners are working to acquire and permanently protect these wild places. They will be placed into trust and protected in perpetuity for the people of Belize.
Responding to Climate Change
After two devastating hurricanes hit Guatemala and Honduras just two weeks apart in November 2020, Re:wild, the Mesoamerican Alliance for People and Forests (AMPB) and Wildlife Conservation Society, created the Mesoamerica Climate Resilience and Response Fund. Central America is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to severe weather events caused by climate change. The region has been affected by increasingly severe droughts and fires during the dry season, and more frequent and stronger tropical storms during the wet season. The Mesoamerica Climate Resilience and Response Fund helps Indigenous communities and local communities recover and protect their forests from illegal land-grabs.
Top photo: Mountains of the Sierra Gorda, Queretaro Province, Mexico. (Robin Moore/Global Wildlife Conservation)