Scientists say that as the top predator in the area, the jaguar keeps the ecosystem in balance. Zarza Villaneuva said: “If you remove the top predator from the environment, you may release explosive mushrooms in the populations of other species, which in turn may cause severe damage to the habitat, leading to its complete collapse.”
“By tracking the jaguar, we can prove that they need a huge living space,” Ceballos added. He believes that protecting the jaguar can also protect the animals downstream in the food chain. “We need this argument, using charismatic species, and persuading the government to expand the protected area. This is our last chance to save the precious resources of Mexican history and our biological heritage,” he said. About 500 jaguars live in the Calakmul Biosphere, Ceballos said, and there are nearly 70,000 other plant and animal species.
Many rich flora and fauna may be destroyed by the Tren Maya or Maya Train that is about to pass through the reserve. The large-scale infrastructure projects expected to be put into operation in 2023 will connect the poorest and southernmost state of Chiapas in Mexico with wealthy tourist centers such as Cancun. Work started in 2018 and has been accelerating and splitting. Some say it will bring much-needed opportunities to remote towns and villages; others warn that this is an ecological disaster in the making. Zarza Villanueva said that opposition groups, including many indigenous communities, called it “ecological extinction.” In 2020, a group led by Ernesto Martínez Jiménez, an indigenous activist from Calakmul, won a legal action demanding that part of the construction along the planned route be suspended. But it is not clear how long the suspension will last.
As night fell, the air was full of mosquitoes. Back at our camp, Campos Hernandez poured me a glass of tequila. “For bites and itching,” he said. When I mentioned the train, he and Ceballos poured themselves another glass of wine. We sat in silence for a long time, letting the chorus of nocturnal insects fill the space between us.
Ceballos finally spoke. “When the train was first announced… I told government officials that if they came into contact with the biosphere, they had to deal with me.” As he and his colleagues learned more about the project and its inevitability, He said, “We decided to get involved instead of putting our hands in the air and calling it ecological extinction.” Ceballos and his team began to model the potential ecological impact, and they asked the government to include wildlife crossing in the plan. , To allow animals to pass safely between the two parts of the sanctuary. Campos Hernandez pointed out that compared with illegal loggers, the Mayan train project destroys fewer forests every year. He and Ceballos now hope that the project can truly encourage environmental sustainability. “Having the army and the government on our side means that we can protect the biosphere from illegal logging and potentially expand the protected area,” Ceballos said. He also believes that this can provide locals with an alternative to illegal logging and hunting. He finished the tequila and talked about the Mayan train. “Now, I strongly recommend everyone to sleep for a while, because we have a wake-up call at 4 in the morning,” he said.
A few hours later, the sound of sirens and howling hounds awakened me. Our caravan consists of two cars and a pickup, and four professional jaguar hunting hounds are galloping along a path through the forest. We arrived at the pile of fresh meat we left the day before, but no trace of the jaguar was found. When the team was looking for traces in the area, Don Pancho asked me to smell the air: there was a scent of musk and tares. “Jabari,” he said. “They just passed by us, but no jaguars.”