Good Guatemalan migratory birds and amphibians news


This video from Guatemalsa is called Saving the Sierra Caral.

From Wildlife Extra:

Creation of new Guatemala reserve has big implications for bird migration

Conservationists are celebrating the government in Guatemala’s formal establishment of a new 47,000 acre (19,013 hectare) protected area that will safeguard some of the country’s most endangered wildlife.

The reserve is home to three species of threatened birds, a host of migratory birds that breed in the United States, a dozen globally threatened frogs and salamanders, five of which are found nowhere else in the world, and the rare Merendon palm pit viper (Bothriechis thalassinus), an arboreal, blue-toned venomous snake.

The National Congress of Guatemala established the National Protected Area by an overwhelming pro-conservation vote of 106 in favour out of a total of 125 congressmen present in the session.

It is the first new protected area designated by the Guatemalan Congress in nine years.

The Core Zone of the area, the 6,000 acre Sierra Caral Amphibian Conservation Reserve, was established in 2012 by Fundación para el Ecodesarrollo y la Conservación (FUNDAECO) with assistance from, among others, the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the World Land Trust, Global Wildlife Conservation and Southern Wings.

Tucked away in the eastern corner of Guatemala near the Caribbean Sea and running along the Honduran border, the newly protected area is named the Sierra Caral Water and Forest Reserve.

“We have been working to obtain the legal declaration of this new protected area for more than seven years,” said Marco Cerezo of FUNDAECO, a leading Guatemalan conservation organisation.

“Finally, the biological importance of Sierra Caral has been recognized by our National Congress. This new protected area brings us a step closer toward our dream, which is the conservation of key stop-over and wintering habitats for migratory birds along their flyway across Caribbean Guatemala.”

Along with other forested sites in the region, Sierra Caral contains critical overwintering and stopover sites for nearly 120 species of neotropical migratory birds, along with 13 species that are regionally endemic and three threatened species: highland guan, great curassow, and keel-billed motmot.

Migratory birds include the Canada warbler, Kentucky warbler, wood thrush, painted bunting, worm-eating warbler, and Louisiana waterthrush. Thirty-three migratory species with population declines in their breeding grounds have been reported in Sierra Caral.

Exploration of these mountains over the past two decades has yielded several new discoveries of beetles, salamanders, frogs, and snakes. At least 118 species of amphibians and reptiles are reported for this area, including seven endemic amphibians only recently discovered there.

“Guatemalan officials demonstrated great vision in establishing this protected area,” said Andrew Rothman, Migratory Bird Program Director at ABC. “They have preserved a key link in the migration corridor between North and South America for migratory birds and ensured North American breeding songbirds will have stopover and wintering ground habitat to use during migration.

“Without question, it is a key addition to Central America’s roster of protected areas.”

Thousands of years ago, the Sierra Caral Mountains were likely islands where species evolved that are found nowhere else.

With the additional convergence of North and South American flora and fauna in this region, Sierra Caral is one of the most unique places for wildlife on Earth.

Big Maya archaeological discovery in Guatemala


This 2011 video is about earlier archaeological discoveries in Holmul, Guatemala.

From National Geographic:

Giant Maya Frieze Found in Guatemala

Archaeologist Anya Shetler cleans an inscription below an ancient stucco frieze recently unearthed in the buried Maya city of Holmul in the Peten region of Guatemala. Sunlight from a tunnel entrance highlights the carved legs of a ruler sitting atop the head of a Maya mountain spirit.

The enormous frieze—which measures 26 feet by nearly 7 feet (8 meters by 2 meters)—depicts human figures in a mythological setting, suggesting these may be deified rulers. It was discovered in July in the buried foundations of a rectangular pyramid in Holmul.

Maya archaeologist Francisco Estrada-Belli and his team were excavating a tunnel left open by looters when they happened upon the frieze. “The looters had come close to it, but they hadn’t seen it,” Estrada-Belli said.

According to Estrada-Belli, the frieze is one of the best preserved examples of its kind. “It’s 95 percent preserved. There’s only one corner that’s not well preserved because it’s too close to the surface, but the rest of it isn’t missing any parts,” said Estrada-Belli, who is affiliated with Tulane University, Boston University, and the American Museum of Natural History and who is also a National Geographic Explorer. …

Caught Between Two Great Powers

The section of the temple at Holmul where the frieze was found dates back to about 590 A.D., which corresponds to the Maya classical era, a period defined by the power struggles between two major Maya dynasties: Tikal and Kaanul.

The two kingdoms competed with one another for resources and for control of other, smaller Maya city-states. Until now, however, it had been unclear which dynasty Holmul owed its allegiance to, but an inscription on the newly discovered frieze reveals that the temple was commissioned by Ajwosaj, ruler of a neighboring city-state called Naranjo, which archaeologists know from other discoveries was a vassal city of the Kaanul kingdom.

“We now know that Holmul was under the influence of the Kaanul dynasty,” Canuto said.

In 2012, Canuto’s team found and deciphered a series of hieroglyphically inscribed panels at another Maya city of a similar size to Holmul, called La Corona, which was also under the patronage of the Kaanul kingdom.

World’s rarest mammals, amphibians on new map


From Wildlife Extra:

World’s rarest and most extraordinary species mapped for the first time

Sunda pangolin

Sunda pangolin occurs in Southeast Asia and is threatened by illegal poaching for its meat and for its scales – Used in traditional medicine. Courtesy of Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Programme

EDGE species added to the map

May 2013. The black-and-white ruffed lemur, Mexican salamander and Sunda pangolin all feature on the first map of the world’s most unique and threatened mammals and amphibians, created by the Zoological Society of London(ZSL).

Scientists pinpointed areas of the world where Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) mammals and amphibians occur. Regions containing the highest concentrations of these species are highlighted as global conservation priorities.

Different regions for different groups
The map reveals that high priority conservation areas for mammals and amphibians are different, reflecting the varied evolutionary histories and threats facing the two groups. For mammals, management efforts are best focused in Southeast Asia, southern Africa and Madagascar. For amphibians, central and southern America are highlighted as priorities.

Very few protected areas
Professor Jonathan Baillie, ZSL’s Director of Conservation says: “The results of the mapping exercise are alarming. Currently only five percent of the areas we’ve identified as priorities for EDGE mammals and 15 percent of the EDGE amphibian areas are protected.

“These areas highlighted should all be global conservation priorities because they contain species that are not only highly threatened but also unique in the way they look, live and behave. These new maps will inform the development of larger-scale work to help secure the future of some of the most remarkable species on Earth,” Professor Baillie added.

The Mexican salamander, or axolotl, is critically endangered due to urbanization, polluted waters, and the introduction of non-native fish which eat the axolotl’s young. Scroll down to see the map of EDGE amphibians

The Mexican salamander, or axolotl, is critically endangered due to urbanization, polluted waters, and the introduction of non-native fish which eat the axolotl’s young. Scroll down to see the map of EDGE amphibians.

Black-and-white ruffed lemur & Sunda pangolin
Madagascar’s black-and-white ruffed lemur is the largest lemur in the world and is threatened by hunting and the loss of its forest habitat to logging, mining and cutting and burning for agriculture. The Sunda pangolin, also known as the scaly anteater, occurs in Southeast Asia and is threatened by illegal poaching for its meat which is a culinary delicacy, as well as its scales which are thought to have high medicinal value. Other mammal species occurring in priority areas include the black rhino and western lowland gorilla.

Amphibians
Amphibians are facing a terrifying rate of extinction making them the most threatened vertebrates in the world. The Mexican salamander, or axolotl, is critically endangered due to urbanization, polluted waters, and the introduction of non-native fish which eat the axolotl’s young. With the aid of the global map of EDGE amphibians, it will now be possible to concentrate efforts in countries such as, Mexico, Costa Rica and Guatemala where the most distinct and threatened species are found.

Dr. Kamran Safi, lead author of the paper from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology says: “This is the first global map to take into account species’ uniqueness as well as threat. Now that we’ve identified EDGE priority areas for mammals and amphibians we can more effectively continue to ensure their protection.”

It is critical that conservationists prioritise the allocation of limited resources for the best conservation outcomes. ZSL’s EDGE of Existence programme has already launched targeted conservation projects for more than 40 EDGE species around the world.

The research paper is published in PLOS ONE.

Mammalian and amphibian EDGE zones

Guatemalan murderous ex-dictator on trial


This video is called Inside Story Americas: Guatemala: Struggling for justice.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Witness gives account of 1982 village massacre

Thursday 21 March 2013

The first witness in the trial of Guatemala’s former US-backed dictator General Efrain Rios Montt testified on Tuesday that soldiers razed his village in 1982.

Nicolas Brito, the first of at least 150 witnesses to give testimony in the trial of Gen Rios Montt, said that troops killed dozens in the attack.

Mr Brito, an indigenous Ixil who survived the army’s attack on the village of Canaque, said he escaped and watched as soldiers attacked.

“A lot of women died because they were preparing the dough for tortillas and couldn’t run,” he added.

“The soldiers tore their victims’ hearts out and put them on a little table.”

In a 1982 coup Gen Rios Montt took power and held it for just over a year.

Prosecutors say during that time he was aware of, and thus responsible for, the slaughter of at least 1,771 Ixil Mayas.

Guatemalan ex-dictator Montt on trial


This video is called Guatemala – An American Genocide – September 1999.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Court charges ex-dictator Montt with war crimes

Tuesday 29 January 2013

by Our Foreign Desk

A Guatemalan court ruled on Monday that former US-backed dictator Jose Rios Montt will stand trial for the murder, torture and displacement of thousands of Mayan Indians.

Judge Miguel Angel Galvez ruled that Rios Montt could be tried on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for the killing of 1,771 indigenous Ixiles in 1982 and ’83, when he was president.

Human rights activists said the prosecution would be an important symbolic victory for the victims of the horrific conflict.

“It’s the beginning of a new phase of the struggle,” said International Centre for Transitional Justice vice-president Paul Seils.

It was “a good step forward” but he expected the prosecution to be resisted by those who want to ensure government-allied forces go unpunished.

“The fact that a judge has ordered the trial of a former head of state is a remarkable development in a country where impunity has long been the norm,” said Human Rights Watch Americas director Jose Miguel Vivanco.

Guatemala‘s leaders have been criticised for years for their unwillingness to prosecute government forces and paramilitaries accused of marching into Mayan villages, raping, torturing, slaughtering women, children and unarmed men in a scorched-earth campaign aimed at eliminating support for a left-wing guerilla movement.

Despite several international inquiries finding him responsible for war crimes, Rios Montt served as a congressman for 15 years until he lost an election last year.

He was immune from prosecution while in congress.

Trial for Genocide in Guatemala to Continue, Says High Court: here.

Former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt spent the weekend in prison after receiving an 80-year sentence for genocide and crimes against humanity: here. See also here.

Guatemala’s highest court overturned a genocide conviction against former dictator Efrain Rios Montt on Monday: here.

Maya queen’s tomb discovery


This video is called Tomb of Maya queen K’abel discovered in Guatemala.

From Science, Space & Robots:

Tomb of Lady K’abel, Maya Queen and Holy Snake Lord, Discovered in Guatemala

The tomb of Lady K’abel, a late 7th century Maya Holy Snake Lord and queen has been discovered in Guatemala. Archaeologists used the carved alabaster vessel … to help conclude the tomb they found belonged to K’abel. The vessel was found inside the burial chamber. Archaeologists say K’abel is considered one of the great queens of Classic Maya civilization.

The scientists say in a release that a “depiction of the woman, mature with a lined face and a strand of hair in front of her ear, and four glyphs carved into the jar” are evidence the tomb is K’abel’s. Other vessels in the tomb and carvings on the outside of the tomb also lead researchers to believe the tomb belonged to the ancient queen.

David Freidel, Washington University in St. Louis archaeologist and co-director of the expedition, says, “The Classic Maya civilization is the only ‘classical’ archaeological field in the New World – in the sense that like archaeology in Ancient Egypt, Greece, Mesopotamia or China, there is both an archaeological material record and an historical record based on texts and images.”

Freidel explains the findings in this video and why they are confident the tomb belongs to K’abel. He says, “It’s as close to a smoking gun in archaeology as you can get.” Freidel says K’abel was both a queen and a supreme warlord.

See also here. And here. And here. And here.

Guatemalan Mayan temple discovery


This video is called A mask-nificent discovery (Mayan masks from El Zotz, Guatemala).

From COSMOS magazine:

Ancient Mayan ‘night sun’ temple found in Guatemala

Friday, 20 July 2012

Agençe France-Presse

GUATEMALA CITY: Archaeologists have uncovered a 1,600-year-old Mayan temple dedicated to the ‘night sun’ atop a pyramid tomb in the northern Guatemalan forest near the border with Mexico.

“The Sun was a key element of Maya rulership,” said lead archeologist Stephen Houston in announcing the discovery by the joint Guatemalan and American team that has been excavating the El Zotz site since 2006.

“It’s something that rises every day and penetrates into all nooks and crannies, just as royal power presumably would,” said Houston, a professor at Brown University, Rhode Island.

Carbon dating places construction at 350-400AD

“This building is one that celebrates this close linkage between the king and this most powerful and dominant of celestial presences.”

Archaeologists say the temple was likely built to honour the leader buried under the Diablo Pyramid tomb, the governor and founder of the first El Zotz dynasty called Pa’Chan, or ‘fortified sky’.

Mayan civilisation, which spread through southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Belize, was at its height between 250 and 900 AD.

Carbon dating places construction of the temple at the early part of that era, somewhere between 350 and 400 AD, the archeologists said.

More than half of the temple still to be excavated

It is ornately decorated with massive stucco masks, 1.5 meters (5 feet) tall, each depicting the phases of the Sun as it moves east to west, and a painted stucco frieze that the team described as “incredible”.

More than half the temple is still to be excavated, co-project leader Thomas Garrison of the University of Southern California told a press conference at Guatemala City’s National Palace of Culture.

“The temple probably had 14 masks at the height of the frieze, but only eight of them have been documented” so far, which is why excavations must continue, added University of Austin archeologist Edwin Roman.

Excavations by the Guatemalan and American team began at the El Zotz dig in 2006, but the temple wasn’t uncovered until three years ago.

See also here.

What Was Behind Mysterious Collapse of the Mayan Empire? Here.