Working with the Local Community to Establish a Baseline for Conservation of the Freshwater and Terrestrial Turtle Species near Sabinito Sur, Mexico

Taggert Butterfield


Other projects

9 Nov 2015

Ecology of the Endemic Mexican Spotted Wood Turtle (Rhinoclemmys rubida) in the Tropical Deciduous Forest of Jalisco, Mexico

The aims of our project are to 1) establish a baseline for conservation of turtle species that occur throughout The Sierra of Alamos protected area in Sonora, Mexico, and 2) provide a research opportunity for high school students where they learn to work independently and improve their critical thinking skills. The Sierra of Alamos protected area was established to protect natural resources but has created conflict with locals who rely on these resources for sustenance. Meanwhile, turtles are endangered worldwide, and little information exists on the six species found within this area. In this project, we will do a mark-recapture study of the six-turtle species with a local community. Two students who cannot afford to attend high school will be awarded scholarships to participate. We will produce baseline information for the conservation of these species and help students attend high school and hopefully acquire an alternative profession in the future.

The Sierra de Alamos protected area near Sabinito Sur, Mexico.

The Sierra de Alamos protected area near Sabinito Sur, Mexico.

Efforts to conserve natural resources should not negatively impact the lives of local people who rely on natural resources for sustenance. Nevertheless, when protected areas are established, like the Sierra de Alamos protected area in Sonora, Mexico, local people are often affected because they can no longer manipulate the land in ways that they are traditionally accustomed to. In the Sierra de Alamos protected area, most families live in extreme poverty and this is partially due to the Mexican government establishing this protected area in 1996. Families in this protected area, like those in Sabinito Sur, have relied on manipulating the land for sustenance for over a century and now that the Mexican government restricts how they can manipulate land many do not have work. At the same time, biologists aim to understand the biology of species within protected areas to formulate effective conservation plans. To this end, our project aims to improve the lives of local people and establish a baseline for conservation for turtles in the Sierra Alamos protected area.

Turtles are imperiled worldwide. Of the 356 species of freshwater and terrestrial turtles in the world, about half are considered near threatened to critically endangered. Mexico hosts the second most turtle species in the world but little to nothing is known on most species. Six species exist in the Sierra of Alamos and in this project, we will carry out a mark-recapture study with the local community of Sabinito Sur. We will employ one local part-time leader and provide scholarships for two high school students to help the local leader to participate. The main goals of this project are to provide a baseline conservation assessment for the 6 species of turtles in this protected area, and help students learn to work independently and improve their critical thinking skills.

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