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New Desert Refuge in Mexico to Provide Critical Habitat for Wildlife

For immediate release

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Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) changed its name to Re:wild in 2021

Global Wildlife Conservation, Turtle Conservancy, Rainforest Trust and HABIO, A.C. Partner on Purchase of Ranch for Biodiversity Conservation

Guimbalete Ranch, Mexico The Guimbalete Ranch covers extensive areas of Chihuahuan desert vegetation backing up to the foothills of the Sierra Mojada. (Photo by Peter Paul van Dijk, Global Wildlife Conservation and Turtle Conservancy)

For immediate release

July 29, 2019

Unique lizards, rare tortoises, nesting and migratory birds, and a variety of resident mammals are set to benefit from the recent purchase of a 18,850-acre former cattle ranch, Rancho Guimbalete, in Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert. The Turtle Conservancy and its local affiliate HABIO, A.C., Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC), and Rainforest Trust partnered on a deal to purchase the ranch, which will be converted into a desert grassland wildlife refuge.

“We are particularly grateful to the previous owners of the ranch, who used it to raise cattle but did it in an environmentally sensitive way,” said Peter Paul van Dijk, a senior associate scientist with GWC. “They prevented overgrazing and resisted the temptation to introduce damaging non-native grass species as fodder for their cows. Their care for the land safeguarded its biodiversity.”

Rancho Guimbalete, which is in the state of Coahuila on the northern edge of the Bolsón de Mapimí Biosphere Reserve, covers a large tract of largely undamaged Chihuahuan desert vegetation and is home to a range of resident and migratory wildlife species. This includes lizards that live only in the local sand dunes, the critically endangered bolson tortoise, nesting birds and migratory birds that stop to feed and rest at the seasonal wetlands, and a variety of resident mammals, such as kangaroo rats, mule deer and pumas. The ranch is also home to an incredible diversity of cacti, herbs and shrub species.

“Wild grassland and desert landscapes all over northern Mexico are being lost to overgrazing and, even worse, conversion to irrigated crop agriculture,” said Eric Goode, president of Turtle Conservancy. “These drylands cannot sustain agriculture for very long. But when exploiting them, native plants and animals are lost, and the landscape is forever changed for the worse. We lose wilderness, and we can never replace that.”

Under the leadership of HABIO, A.C., a Mexican NGO dedicated to biodiversity conservation in the country’s northern deserts, the ranch will now be managed primarily to protect the biodiversity found there. The ranch will also serve as a buffer zone for the neighboring Bolsón de Mapimí Biosphere Reserve, which the Mexican government established in 1977 and is a candidate Key Biodiversity Area, a site of global importance for the persistence of biodiversity.

In addition to putting an end to cattle grazing—which will help spur the recovery of grasslands habitat—HABIO, A.C. will implement management strategies that minimize erosion, encourage vegetation recovery, increase water availability for native wildlife, and prevent destructive agricultural land use.

“The purchase of Rancho Guimbalete by HABIO, so that it can be managed in the future for biodiversity conservation, represents a significant step forward for the conservation of the Bolsón de Mapimí’s unique biology and landscape,” said Judith Rios, treasurer of HABIO, A.C.

As many as 200 bird species, 70 mammal species, 44 reptile species and eight amphibian species potentially may live in or use the ranch habitat, though future surveys will confirm the exact number of species that will benefit from the protection of the ranch. Habitat destruction and poaching are the biggest threats to the wildlife that live here, in addition to more severe droughts that result from climate change.

“The bolson tortoise was recently uplisted from vulnerable to critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature,” said Stephanie Wester, Latin America conservation officer at Rainforest Trust. “It is incredible that over 18,000 acres are now under conservation for the protection of this species and other wildlife.”

This purchase was made possible by grants and other support from a partnership formed by the Turtle Conservancy, Rainforest Trust, Global Wildlife Conservation, and several private donors.

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Photo: The Guimbalete Ranch covers extensive areas of Chihuahuan desert vegetation backing up to the foothills of the Sierra Mojada. (Photo by Peter Paul van Dijk, Global Wildlife Conservation and Turtle Conservancy)

Global Wildlife Conservation

GWC conserves the diversity of life on Earth by safeguarding wildlands, protecting wildlife and supporting guardians. We maximize our impact through scientific research, biodiversity exploration, habitat conservation, protected area management, wildlife crime prevention, endangered species recovery, and conservation leadership cultivation. Learn more at

Turtle Conservancy

The Turtle Conservancy is dedicated to protecting threatened turtles and tortoises and their habitats worldwide. It focuses its work on four strategic program areas: conserving species in their natural habitat, including land acquisition; maintaining captive breeding programs to help restore natural populations; conservation science and research; outreach and spreading global awareness; and monitoring and helping to prevent trade that threatens turtle and tortoise species. Learn more at


HABIO, A.C., is a Mexican non-governmental organization working to preserve habitat for biodiversity in Mexico. In 2016 it acquired Rancho San Ignacio at the core of the Bolsón de Mapimí.

Rainforest Trust

Rainforest Trust purchases and protects the most threatened tropical forests, saving endangered wildlife through partnerships and community engagement. Through these highly effective partnerships, we can ensure sustainable results necessary for the long-term protection of tropical ecosystems and the wildlife they hold. For more information, visit


Lindsay Renick Mayer

Global Wildlife Conservation


James Liu

Turtle Conservancy

Mark Gruin

Rainforest Trust


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