Water for all
The Maya Forest is the second largest tropical forest in the Americas, which holds the Biosphere Reserve of Calakmul. The thick, lush tropical forest provides countless ecological services, including providing a home to some of the most endangered wildlife on the planet, while also being a source of crop pollination, clear air, and timber and non-timber products.
With 30,000 people living around the protected area, nestled within Calakmul is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site - a relic of the rich cultural history of the locals.
Closely tied to the imagination of local communities is the largest feline of the Americas, the jaguar, which is a powerful symbol of their cultural identity as part of mythology, traditions, and beliefs. An apex predator and umbrella species, jaguars are not only critical to maintaining the health of the landscapes they live in, but also safeguard the population of other wildlife they share the forest with.
A healthy jaguar population is important for the forest and people. It safeguards biodiversity, maintains the climate, stabilizes forests and wetlands and enhances the livelihoods of people who depend on forest resources.
But across their range, the jaguar, its prey, and its habitat – the Maya Forest - are facing rapidly increasing threats. Globally, jaguars have lost approximately 50% of their historic distribution, and 20% of their population has declined over the last 14 years, and conflict with communities remains is a major cause. With human settlements increasing around the protected area and people turning to the forest resources for subsistence, deforestation has become one of the major threats to the forest and wildlife.
In recent years, due to climate change, the Calakmul region has seen an erratic variation in rainfall patterns, which is becoming increasingly noticeable in the forests. Due to karstic soil, the region lacks surface water bodies such as rivers and lakes, and the only scarce, superficial water bodies, known as aguadas, are drying up quickly.
For an ecosystem where animals choose their habitat based on water availability, the lack of this vital resource turns into intense competition for limited supplies. With no other means, animals such as tapirs and peccaries, head towards the only source available during the dry season: water containers close to human settlements. Oftentimes, animals break these containers, which causes significant economic loss to locals. With proximity to people, conflict arises when wildlife poses a threat to the safety and economic wellbeing of these communities.
Over 40 water stations are filled by the team to ensure wildlife has access to water.
WWF, in collaboration with the National Commission of Protected Areas (CONANP) and other local partners, is employing a simple water management strategy to address water scarcity and conserve jaguars and their prey. The team has built drinking stations that provide access to water to wildlife, particularly during drought periods.
A total of 36 drinking stations have been installed, while six more are being rehabilitated, making a total of 42 artificial drinking water sources. The stations are refilled regularly with clean water by the team.
WWF has also installed camera traps which show that jaguars and other animals are regularly using these stations for water. Camera trap images showed 76 species of birds and mammals including cougars, tapir, ocelot, and white-lipped peccary drinking water, indicating that this seemingly simple but impactful intervention is working.