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Calakmul Biosphere Reserve

Just north of the Mexico-Guatemala border, covering almost 15 percent of the state of Campeche, lies the 1.8 million-acre Calakmul Biosphere Reserve. Slightly larger than the state of Delaware, Calakmul harbors the largest tracts of tropical forest in Mexico. The reserve is vital to conservation efforts in the region as it forms part of the more than 6 million-acre Maya Forest which extends into Guatemala and Belize. In addition, Calakmul contains several archeological centers, including El Ramonal, Hormiguero, Chicanná, Río Bec, Becán and Calakmul—from which the reserve gets it name (Calakmul in Maya means, "the city of two adjacent pyramids.").

did you know?

Mayan culture was as its peak in the area of Calakmul from A.D. 500 to 900. Today, Mayan people continue to live traditionally in Calakmul, but a thriving forest has all but consumed much of the 6,000 temples, pyramids and palaces of their past.

Bee keeping in Calakmul

Bee keeping in Calakmul © Jon Kerr/TNC


site profile

total area protected:
357,824 acres
map of site

Peten Moist Forest & Yucatan Moist Forest

partner organization:
ProNatura Peninsula de Yucatan (PPY) 

Ecological Importance

From old growth and seasonally flooded forests to grasslands, Calakmul harbors a wealth of biodiversity within its boundaries. The endangered Jabiru stork, duck-beak tree frog, king vulture, ornate hawk eagle, toucans, parrots, six species of marsupials, and two primates are among the many endemic and/or endangered species that find refuge in the reserves. Forming an important part of the Mesoamerican biological corridor, the forest allows for movement of species from the Yucatan to the Petén region in Guatemala and beyond. With five of the six endemic feline species, Calakmul hosts the largest number of felines in all of North America. The Canellasea family is found in Calakmul, which is the only place on the American continent where this flora exists. Over 230 bird species have been recorded in Calakmul and 3-5 million migratory birds winter here each year.


Calakmul has been threatened by unsustainable wood extraction since the beginning of the 20th century when the Mexican government promoted forestry activities in the area. These forestry activities brought settlements and rapid population growth to the area which led to more intensive deforestation and increasing pressure on native wildlife. These same problems exist today as an ever-expanding human population continues to clear land for cattle ranching and agriculture. Roads now line the reserve and have fragmented wildlife habitat. The booming population and pollution from agricultural activities also puts severe pressure on freshwater resources in the area. Adding to these challenges is the fact that much of the reserve is composed of ejidal (communal) lands. As the natural systems become increasingly degraded, so too does the quality of life they provide for local residents.

A Strategy of Success

When Parks and Peril (PiP) began working in Calakmul in 1991, the reserve had no staff, infrastructure, nor funding for conservation activities. The borders of the reserve crossed private and ejidal lands, resulting in little support for the creation of the reserve. The nearest reserve authorities were located 150 miles away and environmental regulations were difficult to enforce. With PiP funding, however, signs and guard stations were soon installed and radio communications and vehicles were provided for a total of 20 newly hired reserve staff.

PiP and its partner organization Pronatura Peninsula de Yucatan (PPY) revived Calakmul’s Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), an organization designed to bring stakeholders and communities together. Today, the TAC—represented by over 70 percent of the local population and members of 43 governmental, academic, social, and non-governmental organizations—supports community-based projects and ensures on-site management at Calakmul.

PPY has created research alliances with national and international organizations, which now support on-going conservation research and monitoring. With PiP support, the TAC analyzed the threats to the reserve by incorporating socioeconomic and land tenure variables as well as wildlife indicators in a mapping project.

When PiP began working with the reserve, the program was the reserve’s only source of funding. Upon site consolidation in 1999, Calakmul was receiving federal funds and support from multiple organizations.

Read more about Calakmul...

ProNatura Peninsula de Yucatan (PPY)
The Nature Conservancy in Calakmul
Online Field Guide to Calakmul

Read more about projects in Mexico...

El Pinacate/Gran Desierto del Altar Biosphere Reserve
Cuatro Ciénegas National Wildlife Reserve

Loreto Bay/Isla Espiritu Santo Migratory Flora and Fauna Reserve
Ría Celestún & Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserves
Ajos Bavispe Biosphere Reserve
El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve
Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve
El Ocote Biosphere Reserve

La Encrucijada Biosphere Reserve

Mexico Partner Organizations

The Nature Conservancy in Mexico