Project Overview

unnamedIn 2012, GWC led an international consortium of NGOs to enable local Guatemalan group to purchase and protect 6,000 acres of primary rainforest in the Sierra Caral of Guatemala, home to a dozen imperiled amphibians and the recently discovered Merendon palm pit viper. In 2014, Guatemala’s National Congress built on this unprecedented success and created the 47,000-acre Sierra Caral National Protected Area—the nation’s first federally protected area to be established in seven years. At the core of the new protected area is the Sierra Caral Amphibian Conservation Reserve.

The Sierra Caral is home to unique and threatened plants and animals found nowhere else on the planet, and its forests are an important part of the Mesoamerican corridor that allows jaguars and other animals to migrate between the American continents. These mountains hold the headwaters to rivers that local communities depend on and the forests help prevent landslides that pose a great risk to people in the region. The protection of the Sierra Caral by the Government of Guatemala heralds a bright future for the people and wildlife of this region.

The Sierra Caral, an isolated mountain range near Guatemala’s Caribbean coast, is not only home to many endemic species, but is also a natural corridor and meeting place for many North and South American species. The protected area provides habitat for a dozen globally threatened amphibians—five found nowhere else in the world—and three species of threatened birds. Scientific explorations in the Sierra Caral have resulted in discoveries of new beetle, salamander, frog, and snake species.

The Reserve is also vital habitat for threatened bird species. The Sierra Caral Amphibian Reserve is known to harbor populations of the Highland Guan (Penelopina nigra), the Great Curassow (Crax rubra), and the Keel-billed Motmot (Electron carinatum), all three of which are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. In addition, the forest is an important stopover for hundreds of migrating bird species.

Project Goals

Waterfall at Las Escobas, Cerro San Gil, Guatemala

To secure the permanent protection of the Sierra Caral cloud forest

Over the last 20 years, rampant clear-cutting has led to the loss of critical wildlife habitat in the Sierra Caral and reduced populations of local species. The protected area, which contains the last stands of primary forest found in the Sierra Caral, will protect some of the best remaining habitat in eastern Guatemala for jaguars, pumas, and other threatened species.

To provide additional legal protection and long-term sustainability for the reserve

“The Sierra Caral National Protected Area was created with the overwhelming support of Guatemala’s National Congress, with eighty-four percent of Congress voting in favour,” said GWC’s President and Director of Conservation Dr. Don Church. “The new protected area, which is nearly eight times the size of the original reserve, will provide additional legal protection and long-term sustainability for the reserve.”

“This accomplishment highlights the fact that our work doesn’t end with land purchase, rather it is the beginning of a process to ensure the land is permanently protected,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust. “Our Guatemalan partner FUNDAECO has achieved an outstanding success that will securely protect one of our planet’s most biodiverse areas.”

Blue snake from Sierra Caral, Guatemala

To ensure the conservation of many endemic and endangered amphibians

This area will fill an important conservation gap in the Guatemalan system of protected areas, and will ensure the conservation of many endemic and endangered amphibians in this globally recognized AZE (Alliance for Zero Extinction) site,” said Marco Cerezo, Director General of FUNDAECO.

Quick Facts


Jaguars, pumas, Giant Palm Salamander, Guatemala Brook Frog, Merendon Palm-viper


Guatemala, Central America


One of the most biodiverse forest remnants in Central America


FUNDAECO, Global Wildlife Conservation, Rainforest Trust, the Amphibian Survival Alliance, Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, International Conservation Fund of Canada, American Bird Conservancy and Conservation International

Additional GWC Projects in Central America