The peninsular pronghorn, an animal that occupies a niche between deer and goats, remains in danger of extinction in Baja California but a 20-year preservation program to ensure the survival of the species has made some progress and boosted numbers, especially in recent years.
Jointly administered by the Natural Protected Areas Commission (Conanp) and the NGO Endesu, the program has managed to increase the pronghorn population by 32% over the past seven years in the states of Baja California and Baja California Sur.
The National Forestry Commission (Conafor), which has funded recent efforts, provided the data to the newspaper El Universal.
Similar in appearance to an antelope, the pronghorns became critically endangered because of illegal hunting, changing environmental and climate conditions and natural predators. In the early 1990s, as few as 93 of the mammals remained.
Consequently, since 1997 the groups involved in the conservation efforts have implemented measures to stop poaching and placed eating and drinking troughs on 10 ejidos covering 41,988 hectares of communal land in both states.
Fences have also been put up to protect the species from predators and to provide areas where they can be better managed and nurtured. Land in the Vizcaíno biosphere reserve and the Valley of the Cirios are both included in the preservation efforts.
Program head Víctor Sánchez said that there are now 480 pronghorns on the peninsula, 155 more than the number counted in 2010. Conafor has provided 40 million pesos (US $2.1 million) towards the efforts in the intervening period.
“The partnership with Conafor is important because the vision for the future is that the landowners take an interest in the conservation,” Sánchez said.
In fact, the arid zones where the pronghorns live can actually benefit from their presence and become more fertile as the animals’ hoofs function like mini plows, cutting grooves in the earth in which they leave their excrement. Coupled with dew, it hydrates the land and makes it more arable.
The preservation program has also benefited other species that are endemic or endangered in the area such as desert foxes, southern crested caracaras, eagles, hawks, mule deer, hares and coyotes that also access food and water left on the ejidos.
Residents of one parcel of communal land near Ensenada called El Costeño also see an economic benefit to the preservation of the pronghorn and other species.
“The area has a lot of tourist attractions, it’s the birthplace of the gray whale, we have a lot of archaeological zones [and] cave paintings left by our ancestors that in some way can be exploited . . .” ejido president Enrique Madrigal said.
He added that ensuring tourism activities were compatible with the conservation of their ecosystems and natural resources was a priority.
Source: El Universal (sp)