One of the factors that make Yucatán unique is its marvelous natural environment. Its closeness to the Equator gives us 11 hours of daylight in the dead of winter, wonderfully warm temperatures to enjoy both the Gulf and cenotes, and, above everything else, a spectacular biodiversity. Did you know that our Peninsula is home to almost 4,000 species of animals? Mammals, reptiles, insects, birds…we’re all neighbors in this beautiful corner of the world.
So beautiful it is (so peaceful, so full of history, culture, and lovely neighbors) that more and more people want to be part of it, with good reason. And please don’t get me wrong, we’re thrilled to have everyone here! But we do want to make sure there’s room for everyone, including the 4,000 different kinds of neighbors that got here long before us. But how do we do that? How do we give them a voice, when we ask them to scoot over and over and over every time we need to build a new residential development?
A few decades ago, Costa Rica faced a similar dilemma. What did they do about it? They monetized their biodiversity. The Costa Rican government launched a series of measures to (generously) incentivize landowners to keep their properties forested, as they realized one of the most important reasons why travelers chose Costa Rica was its lush scenery and exotic animals. Conserving their natural environment was guaranteeing the tourism industry would be profitable in the long term. In the last 35 years, Costa Rica has become one of the few countries to have not only stopped but significantly reversed its own deforestation.
Yucatán is not Costa Rica, but both regions do have things in common. Economic support from the government is not one of them, but now that the world has discovered Yucatán, the incentives can come from all of us living (and passing through) here.
Here are some ideas on how you can do your part:
Choose birdwatching and nature tours and experiences.
Especially if you’ve never done it: you might discover a new hobby! Agencies like Co’ox Mayab and Xocen Birding Trail offer these tours, as do groups like Festival de las Aves TOH and Cardenales Birding Club. If you already have experience and don’t need a guide, on Facebook you’ll find plenty of pages where enthusiasts organize hiking and mountain biking outings, and share routes, ideas, and tips.
If you’re taking a tour, always choose certified, well-prepared guides.
A good guide will help you spot animals at a safe distance, with zero risk to you or them.
Whenever possible, incentivize.
For these experiences to work, they have to be profitable. Nobody is having a particularly good time, so make sure to pay fairly. If you can afford it, tip generously.
Not every incentive is monetary: recommend away.
Always recommend your favorite among these experiences to your friends and visitors, and encourage them to do the same.
Never, for any reason, keep native birds as pets.
We want to make sure that seeing birds in the wild is a better business than hunting and trapping them to be sold. Plus, consider that, in a safe environment, you could never give them a better life than they’ll have out in nature.
Make sure your home has as many trees as possible.
Fallen leaves are not garbage; they’re biodegradable and great for your garden. If you still don’t like them, look for local species like the Balché, which keeps them on all year long. You’ll see plenty of birds, and your home will be naturally cooler.
Keep your cat inside.
Cats are natural-born hunters and kill for sport; nests and chicks are frequent victims.
By Yucatán Today
Photography by Yucatán Today, Mike Díaz, Ángel Castillo, and Carlos Rosado for use in Yucatán Today.
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