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From the Verge of Extinction to Population and Habitat Recovery: 18 Years of a Successful Cutting-Ed

Ariano-Sánchez, Daniel Centro de Estudios Ambientales y Biodiversidad Universidad del Valle de Guatemala Ciudad Guatemala, Guatemala

Department of Natural Sciences and Environmental Health University of South-Eastern Norway Telemark, Norway

Gil-Escobedo, Johana Heloderma Natural Reserve Zootropic Zacapa, Guatemala

Salazar-Asencio, Gilberto Heloderma Natural Reserve Zootropic Zacapa, Guatemala

López, Erick Heloderma Natural Reserve Zootropic Zacapa, Guatemala

The Guatemalan Beaded Lizard was believed to be almost extinct, until 2002 when the Guatemalan NGO Zootropic began the first ever research and conservation project aimed at this species. This research produced the first insights on the ecology of this endangered species and put in the spotlight the extinction risk of this species. The most important threats are habitat destruction, wildlife traffic, climate change, and aversive hunting. We have undertaken a number of different activities, many of which involve local communities, to help safeguard this species against their different threats. Some of the remaining populations of the Guatemalan Beaded Lizard live within Heloderma Natural Reserve (HNR), a private reserve managed by Zootropic and which is one of the best-preserved dry forests in Central America. The project has undertaken a number of different activities: (1) Applied community-based research; (2) Habitat preservation and restoration; (3) In situ breeding reinforcement program,; (4) reinforcement of national and international laws including CITES listings; (5) Community outreach and education program; and (5) Scientific tourism for local development. Local leadership of this Guatemalan-based project, along with a long-term relationship with national government agencies was crucial for building trust on the different activities. The use of cutting-edge techniques on ecological research such as GPS-based triaxial accelerometry, along with innovative conservation strategies were fundamental to achieve success.

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