The Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Laboratory at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) launched the program that earned it the BBVA Foundation award in 1995, with the aim of developing conservation policies for the greatest possible number of species and ecosystems.
In these two decades and more, the results of its activities include the creation of 20 reserves occupying millions of hectares, protection and management plans for 30 endangered species, among them the jaguar, bison, prairie dog and black-footed ferret, and partnership initiatives with rural communities. Its work has also laid the ground for policy decisions like the passage of the Mexican Endangered Species Act or the setup of the Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas.
“For us the key to results has been doing solid basic science work. What sets our group apart is that we have used this solid knowledge to address these problems at two levels, with a major drive to protect both endangered species and ecosystems,” explains the Laboratory’s head Gerardo Ceballos.
Foremost among these initiatives is the development of the National Strategy for the Conservation of the Jaguar. In 2016, the Laboratory sealed a historic agreement with the Mexican Government to create reserves (of up to 2.5 million hectares) and biological corridors in order to protect this feline, in the process helping other species dependent on the same ecosystem. “What makes me proud is that we have leveraged basic science to generate public policy and conservation actions,” Ceballos continues. After hearing of the jury’s decision, he called the prize “a huge encouragement to keep on working, which will also enable us to move forward more quickly in getting new projects approved by the authorities.”