Nearly one third of the New World’s 32 species of ungulates are found in Mexico, which serves as an important biological transition zone between temperate North America and tropical Central and South America. While few of these species are at risk of extinction, their ecological and economic importance makes them a significant conservation concern. As such, a special issue of Tropical Conservation Science, mongabay.com’s open access journal, takes a closer look at Mexico’s ungulates.
Edited by Sonia Gallina and Salvador Mandujano, research scientists at the Instituto de Ecologia, A.C. in Mexico, the issue include papers on Baird’s Tapir, one of Mexico’s endangered ungulate species; the white-lipped peccary; the feral pig; the bighorn sheep; and the conservation and management of the white-tailed deer, an important source of meat in rural communities.
Gallina and Mandujano also provide an overview of ungulate conservation and management within Mexico.
Baird’s tapir (Tapirus bairdii) is endangered primarily because of habitat destruction and overhunting throughout its distribution range in southeastern Mexico. The number of tapirs occurring in Mexico is around 2600 individuals, which are also threatened by forest fires, building of highways and dams, disease transmission from domestic animals, pollution of rivers and lagoons, and global climatic change effects. Eduardo J. Naranjo proposes a strategy for tapir conservation in Mexico, including: 1) habitat protection and management; 2) creation of corridors among isolated forest fragments containing tapirs; 3) reduction of poverty and control of poaching in communities near tapir habitat; 4) captive breeding programs for recovery of wild populations; 5) environmental education and communication programs in rural and urban areas near tapir habitat; and 6) research on population status, threats, and alternatives for conservation of tapirs and their habitat.
The white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari) is a pig-like species that forms the largest groups documented for any other related species living in tropical forests. White-lipped peccaries have become increasingly rare in Mexico and Central America in the last 50 years. Rafael Reyna-Hurtado suggests some management actions for conservation of this endangered species based on a synthesis of ecological and social data coming mainly from a two-years’ field study conducted in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve (CBR) and three human communities that surround it in Southeastern Mexico.
Invasive species are those that occur beyond their accepted normal distribution, either introduced by humans or other means, and become so well adapted to their new environments that interfere with native species. The introduction of invasive species is one important cause of loss of biodiversity throughout the world. The domestic pig (Sus scrofa) is native from Eurasia and North Africa, and has been introduced around the world as a source of food, some groups escaped from human care, turning into feral animals. Its presence in the Baja California peninsula dates from the 18th century. Aurora Breceda Solís-Cámara and colleagues assessed its relative abundance, distribution and its impact to the vegetation in the “Sierra La Laguna” Biosphere Reserve”, located at the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula.
The exploitation of the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in México is regulated in conservation units of wildlife (UMAs). Using counts of fecal clumps Gerardo Sánchez-Rojas and colleagues assess the density and demographic structure of the population of white-tailed deer. The study suggests that data based on the study of the spatial distribution of white-tailed deer fecal clumps can be an important tool to monitor the deer population in the study area and in other areas where white-tailed deer occurs.
In their study Christian Alejandro Delfín-Alfonso and colleagues sought to define management strategies, in terms of habitat quality, for the white-tailed deer in the central region of Veracruz, Mexico. They determined that 70% of the suitable habitat in the study area is of poor quality for deer.