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A community-based survey of mammals in the Río Sapo basin, El Salvador

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Introduction: El Salvador is one of the most densely populated and most deforested countries of the American continent, where social insecurity make field research difficult. Here we present an experience in which rural and indigenous communities were part of a mammal survey. Objectives: To identify the mammals of Río Sapo basin, and establish the potential of local communities in scientific studies of mammals in El Salvador. Methods: We studied 17 sites in Joateca and Arambala, Río Sapo basin; 14 volunteers were organized, including local former hunters, forest owners, indigenous communities, and researchers. Fieldwork was done from August 2018 to December 2019. Mammals were identified during field visits and with camera traps. We also included the socio-cultural importance of wildlife within the Kakawira-Lenca indigenous worldview. Results: Twenty-two species were identified, including six that are threatened or endangered. We expanded the local range of Tamandua mexicana and Pecari tajacu for the department of Morazán, also, we added Glaucomys volans to the country's species list. We list traditional uses of mammals of the Kakawira-Lenca culture and report the indigenous names of 15 species. Conclusion: The participation of local communities is a valid option for field work in El Salvador, and probably in other areas where social insecurity makes field research dangerous.
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UNED Research Journal (e-ISSN 1659-441X), Vol. 12(2): e3015, December, 2020
A community-based survey of mammals in the Río Sapo basin, El Salvador
José Guadalupe Argueta Rivera1 , Erwin Arquímedes Chica Argueta2 , Santos Reynaldo Argueta
Romero2 , José Pablo Argueta Romero2 , Mercedes Chica Chica3 , Mario Salvador Hernández4 ,
Juana Heriberta Cruz5, Valentín Pérez Mestanza6, Xochilt Pocasangre-Orellana7, Luis Girón8 &
Francisco S. Álvarez7,9
1. Alcaldía Municipal de Joateca, Unidad Ambiental Municipal, Morazán, El Salvador;;
2. Investigador comunitario, Municipio de Joateca, Morazán, El Salvador;;;
3. Investigador comunitario ,Municipio de Arambala, Morazán, El Salvador;
4. Asociación Comunal Lenca de Guatajiagua (ACOLGUA), Guatajiagua, Morazán, El Salvador;
5. Asociación Comunal Lenca de Chilanga (ACOLCHI), Chilanga, Morazán, El Salvador;
6. Comunidad Indígena Kakawira (WINAKA KAKAWIRA), Cacaopera, Morazán, El Salvador;
7. Fundación Naturaleza El Salvador, Departamento de investigación, Colonia Escalón, San Salvador, El Salvador;
8. Asociación Territorios Vivos El Salvador, San Salvador, El Salvador;
9. UDP Ciencias Neotropicales, Departamento de Investigación, San Salvador, El Salvador;
Recibido 25-II-2020 Corregido 6-V-2020 Aceptado 9-VI-2020
ABSTRACT. Introduction: El Salvador is one of the most
densely populated and most deforested countries of the
American continent, where social insecurity make field
research difficult. Here we present an experience in
which rural and indigenous communities were part of a
mammal survey. Objectives: To identify the mammals of
Río Sapo basin, and establish the potential of local
communities in scientific studies of mammals in El
Salvador. Methods: We studied 17 sites in Joateca and
Arambala, Río Sapo basin; 14 volunteers were organized,
including local former hunters, forest owners, indigenous
communities, and researchers. Fieldwork was done from
August 2018 to December 2019. Mammals were
identified during field visits and with camera traps. We
also included the socio-cultural importance of wildlife
within the Kakawira-Lenca indigenous worldview.
Results: Twenty-two species were identified, including six
that are threatened or endangered. We expanded the
local range of Tamandua mexicana and Pecari tajacu for
the department of Morazán, also, we added Glaucomys
volans to the country's species list. We list traditional uses
of mammals of the Kakawira-Lenca culture and report the
indigenous names of 15 species. Conclusion: The
participation of local communities is a valid option for
field work in El Salvador, and probably in other areas
where social insecurity makes field research dangerous.
Keywords: Community science, distribution, indigenous
communities, Kakawira-Lenca, Morazán, wildlife.
RESUMEN. Registro comunitario de mamíferos en la
cuenca del Río Sapo, El Salvador. Introducción: El
Salvador es un país densamente poblado y deforestado,
donde la inseguridad social dificulta la investigación de
campo. Presentamos una experiencia en la cual las
comunidades rurales e indígenas fueron parte de un
registro de mamíferos. Objetivos: Identificar los
mamíferos de la cuenca del Río Sapo y establecer el
potencial de las comunidades locales en estudios
científicos de mamíferos en El Salvador. Métodos:
Estudiamos 17 sitios en Joateca y Arambala, Río Sapo,
durante agosto del 2018 hasta diciembre del 2019;
organizamos 14 voluntarios. Identificamos los mamíferos
durante las visitas de campo y con cámaras trampa.
También incluimos la importancia sociocultural de la vida
silvestre dentro de la cosmovisión indígena Kakawira-
Lenca. Resultados: Identificamos 22 especies, incluidas
seis que están amenazadas o en peligro de extinción.
Ampliamos el ámbito local de Tamandua mexicana y
Pecari tajacu para el departamento de Morazán , además,
agregamos a Glaucomys volans a la lista de especie del
país. Enumeramos los usos tradicionales de los mamíferos
de la cultura Kakawira-Lenca e informamos los nombres
indígenas de 15 especies. Conclusión: La participación de
las comunidades locales son una opción válida para el
trabajo de campo en El Salvador, y probablemente en
otras áreas donde la inseguridad social hace que la
investigación de campo sea peligrosa.
Palabras clave: Ciencia comunitaria, distribución,
comunidades indígenas, Kakawira-Lenca, Morazán, vida
UNED Research Journal (e-ISSN 1659-441X), Vol. 12(2): e3015, December, 2020
El Salvador is one of the most densely populated and most deforested countries of the
American continent (Dull, 2008). Population growth and high demand for food have caused high
deterioration of its territory, turning forests into agricultural and livestock areas, and this
degradation has led to the extirpation of most large mammals in the country (Campbell & Torres-
Alvarado, 2011; Campbell, 2015). Some authors suggest that a large part of Salvadoran ecosystems
are vulnerable and present an endangered or threatened conservation status (Crespin & Simonetti,
2015, 2016). Although ~29% of the territory is considered forest (mainly secondary forests) (MARN,
2018), the protected areas (terrestrial) system covers only ~8% (UNEP-WCMC, 2019), which
suggests that a large part of the forests and Salvadoran biodiversity is mainly in private areas
exposed to human activity.
In the northeastern area of El Salvador, during the 1980s, many lands were abandoned due
to the armed conflict, that lasted a little more than a decade, which allowed an increase in the forest
cover in the following years (Hecht, Kandel, Gomes, Cuellar, & Rosa, 2006; Hecht & Saatchi, 2007;
Clark, Aide, & Riner, 2012; Redo, Grau, Aide, & Clark, 2012). During the post-war period to date,
agricultural and livestock activity has been diminished by the phenomenon of remittances (Hecht et
al., 2006; Redo et al., 2012). However, deforestation by wood extraction, land-use change, poaching
or illegal hunting, and uncontrolled tourism is evident in this part of the country. As a response to
these problems, there are currently social organizations and local governments acting to protect its
natural resources under the local environmental governance approach, including the contribution
of Kakawira-Lenca indigenous communities. However, in El Salvador, these local actions tend to be
underestimated or usually go unnoticed by decision-makers, though there are some documented
cases in the country where local communities lead conservation efforts (e.g. Valencia, i Juncà, Linde,
& Riera, 2011; Valencia, Riera, & Boada i Juncà, 2012). Therefore, it is important to know and divulge
the link between biodiversity and local communities to develop better participatory biodiversity
management and conservation strategies at a local and national level (Berkes, Colding, & Folke,
2000; Moller, Berkes, Lyver, & Kislalioglu, 2004; Berkes, 2007).
Currently, there are efforts to study the mammals in El Salvador, however, most information
remains part of technical reports and very few get published in scientific journals (e.g. Morales
Hernández, 2002; Girón, Owen, & Rodríguez, 2010; Campbell & Torres-Alvarado, 2011; Crespín,
2011; Owen & Girón, 2012; Crespin & García-Villalta, 2014; Campbell, 2015; Pineda Peraza, Segura
Yanes, Medina Zeledón, Flores-Márquez, & López, 2017; Morales-Rivas et al., 2020), and many
times, researchers ignore the role of local communities as crucial actors in the generation of data,
despite when local actors can reduce research costs and increase the quality of information due to
their knowledge of the territory, besides offering an exchange of knowledge between researchers
and local communities (Conrad & Hilchey, 2011). Even this can favor the production of scientific
material within hostile territories dominated by drug trafficking, gangs, or illicit associations in sites
of biodiversity hot-spots, such as occurs in remote forests within the Central American region
(Sesnie et al., 2017). In El Salvador, high rates of violence and social insecurity make field research
work difficult, even the work of environmental defenders is a dangerous job in the country (Allison,
2017; Middeldorp & Le Billon, 2019). Therefore, this participatory mechanism between researchers
and local communities provides opportunities to co-produce scientific efforts within the social
context of El Salvador.
This work is the first community effort that has generated wildlife data on private properties
in forested areas of the northeastern area of El Salvador. Also, this document collects information
on the sociocultural link of wildlife to local communities. With this community science effort, we
expect to contribute to the generation of knowledge and inputs for the management and protection
of biodiversity in the territory. Therefore, this study´s main goals were a) to establish the importance
UNED Research Journal (e-ISSN 1659-441X), Vol. 12(2): e3015, December, 2020
of local communities in scientific studies in El Salvador; b) to rescue the sociocultural value of
mammalian species within the indigenous and local communities in northeastern El Salvador.
Study Area: The research was carried out in the municipalities of Joateca and Arambala, in
the northeastern area of El Salvador in the department of Morazán (Fig. 1 in Digital Appendix).
Between both municipalities, an approximate area of 190,3km2 is covered. The elevation of the
study area ranges from 450-950masl, the temperature and precipitation are typical of tropical
regions, with a rainy season (May-October) and six months of the well-defined dry season
(November-April). The predominant vegetation type is the pine-oak and subtropical dry forest
association. There are very predominant rock formations in the landscape and its main sources of
water are the Río Sapo, Río Guaco, and Río Talchiga, all belonging to the Río Torola basin. Within
the department of Morazán, near the municipalities of Joateca and Arambala, there are indigenous
communities (Kakawira-Lenca) in the municipalities of Guatajiagua, Sensembra, Chilanga, San
Simón, Corinto, Lolotiquillo, Cacaopera, Yoloaiquín, and Delicias de Concepción, that impact the
territory through participation in environmental actions.
Data collection: The participation of 14 volunteers was organized, including local people
(former hunters), forest owners, indigenous communities, and researchers. The volunteers were
trained through workshops about the use of camera traps, the use of GPS, images compilation, data
processing in the computer, and species identification. Subsequently, camera traps and GPS were
provided to the volunteer team. Seventeen sampling sites were selected within the Río Sapo basin,
each site corresponding to properties of the project volunteers or private areas along the Río Sapo
basin (Table 1 in Digital Appendix). The selected sites correspond to sites with less probability of
theft of the camera traps, and they also represent sites with less delinquency or sites with less
conflict between owners and volunteers team in this research.
Fieldwork began in the dry season of April 2018 with the organization of the voluntary work
team and data were collected in the field from August 2018 to December 2019. Nine camera traps
(Cabela´s, Bushnell, and CamPark models) were used, changing sites approximately every 20-30
days to cover more area. The cameras were located at a minimum distance of 300m between them.
The sites were selected according to traces or evidence of the activity of wild mammals in the area
and experience of volunteers in the field. Sites with direct sunlight exposure and sites with high
human activity were avoided. Memory cards were checked every 20-30 days to identify mammalian
findings. The conservation status of registered species was verified according to international lists
(IUCN, CITES) and national legislation.
At the end of the fieldwork, a workshop was held with land-owners, indigenous leaders, and
researchers to identify documented species, identification of common names, traditional names of
the Kakawira-Lenca culture, traditional uses of mammals, and identification of descriptive aspects
of the habitat. Each animal was classified according to the predominant diet based on available
literature. Additionally, sightings data were obtained that were registered within the forest by the
team of researchers and volunteers. This was done to document the largest number of species that
inhabit the area, only using records of high reliability.
Habitat descriptions: To describe important aspects of the habitat of the mammal species
in the area, the type of forest cover was classified by the ecological categories that volunteers
recognized and identified according to leaf type, dominant tree species, and leaf deciduousness. For
this, participatory workshops were held where researchers and volunteers defined the forest cover
type that predominates at each site where the camera traps were placed. Five categories were
identified: Broadleaved forest (BLF; predominantly broad-leaved species always green), deciduous
UNED Research Journal (e-ISSN 1659-441X), Vol. 12(2): e3015, December, 2020
forest (DF; Deciduous species in the dry season), Riparian forest (RF), Oak forest (OF), Pine-oak forest
(POF) and Mixed forest (MF; deciduous species, broadleaf, fruit trees, and forest plantations).
We reported 22 species of mammals (Table 1) distributed in eight orders and 15 families in
a sampling effort of approximately 8 160 camera hours (Fig. 2-4 in Digital Appendix). The most
representative mammal order was Carnivora with 11 species. The most recorded species per sites
were Didelphis marsupialis (10 sites), Conepatus leuconotus (eight sites), and Odocoileus virginianus
(six sites), while the species Desmodus rotundus, Sylvilagus floridanus, Canis latrans, Pecari tajacu,
and Cuniculus paca were registered only in one site (Table 1). The species recorded only through
sightings by volunteers were Lontra longicaudis, Nasua narica, Procyon lotor, and Glaucomys volans.
The trophic guilds of carnivores (eight species), herbivores (two species), omnivores (six species),
insectivores (two species), frugivores (three species), hematophagous (one species) were identified
(Table 1). In the case of endangered species for El Salvador, we recorded Tamandua mexicana, Puma
concolor, Leopardus wiedii, L. longicaudis, P. tajacu, and C. paca. According to CITES status, the
species L. wiedii and L. longicaudis are included in Appendix I, and P. concolor, Puma yagouaroundi,
and P. tajacu in Appendix II. In the case of IUCN status, only L. wiedii and L. longicaudis are found as
Near Threatened (NT), and the rest of species are considered Least Concern (LC).
Regarding habitat types, Riverine Forest (RF) was the habitat with the highest species
richness (13 species /four sites), followed by Deciduous Forest (10 species / five sites), Oak Forest
(seven species / one site), Broad Leaved Forest (seven species/ three sites), and Mixed Forest (six
species/ three sites), while in Pine-oak Forest only one species was recorded at one site (Table 1).
In the Riverine Forest, we found three endangered species in El Salvador: T. mexicana, L. wiedii, P.
concolor. The Broad Leaved Forest was the only habitat where we recorded P. tajacu, the Oak Forest
the only habitat for G. volans and C. paca, and the Mixed Forest for L. longicaudis. We recorded, in
almost all identified habitats, the presence of O. virginianus and Dasyprocta punctata, species which
are known to be part of the diet of predators such as felines. The presence of cattle (Bos taurus)
within forested areas was documented, as well as sightings of feral dogs (Canis lupus familiaris),
domestic cats (Felis catus), and hunters on several occasions in locations with the occurrence of
mammals such as T. mexicana, P. yagouaroundi, P. concolor, and O. virginianus. During the study,
we did not observe any threat to domestic animals or livestock by top predators, or any other
conflict between wildlife and humans. However, through consults in communities near forests, we
detected concern for the presence of P. concolor.
UNED Research Journal (e-ISSN 1659-441X), Vol. 12(2): e3015, December, 2020
List of mammalian species identified in 17 sites in the northern area of Morazán, in the period from August 2018-
December 2019
Trophic guilds
Total species
Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris)
Cats (Felis catus)
Cattle (Bos taurus)
Sighted reports (†). Broad Leaved Forest (BLF; 3 sites), Riverine Forest (RF; 4 sites), Mixed Forest (MF; 3 sites), Deciduous
Forest (DF; 5 sites), Oak Forest (OF; 1 site), Pine-oak Forest (POF; 1 site). Dogs, cattle, and hunters were recorded; these
values correspond to the number of times they were registered in the camera independently.
UNED Research Journal (e-ISSN 1659-441X), Vol. 12(2): e3015, December, 2020
Regarding the socio-cultural value, we rescued 15 names of mammal’s species in the
Kakawira-Potón language of the Kakawira-Lenca culture (Table 2). We reported traditional uses of
mammals that were classified into five categories: food, medicinal, worldview, artisanal (tools), and
ornamental. The use of food (12 species) was the most predominant of all the mammals identified,
followed by medicinal use (10), worldview (9), ornamental (four), and artisanal (two). Cougar (P.
concolor) and Deer (O. virginianus) stand out as protective spirits and guardians of the forest within
Kakawira-Lenca culture. These species are important within the worldview of the indigenous
community, venerated by representing a significant link between the human being and mother
earth. Although historically hunting was a source of food for these communities, this activity is not
currently carried out and its main diet comes from agricultural production. Currently, the Kakawira-
Lenca community makes conservation efforts in the territories autonomously and conservation
efforts are made through environmental education, forest restoration, and organic agriculture,
using the worldview of both cultures through the recognition of the value of species and their link
with the forest.
List of mammalian species identified in the northern area of Morazán, in the period from August 2018-December 2019
Scientific name
Common name
(Salvadorean name)
Kakawira**, Potón* name
Didelphis marsupialis
Tacuazín negro
F, M
Philander opossum
Tacuazín cuatro ojos
F, M
Dasypus novemcinctus
Cuzuco, armadillo
F, M, A, O, W
Ki´sukisu/kisú**, Guat*
Tamandua mexicana
Oso hormiguero
Desmodus rotundus
Murciélago vampíro
Sylvilagus floridanus
Conejo silvestre
F, W
Kunikundi**, Mon*
Leopardus wiedii
O, W
Puma concolor
O, W
Puma yagouaroundi
Gato zonto
F, W
Mitsikarran**, Kotan-mistu*
Canis latrans
M, W
Wiru/wirru**, Shua*
Urocyon cinereoargenteus
Zorra gris
Lontra longicaudis
Conepatus leuconotus
Zorrillo espalda blanca
Mephitis macroura
Zorrillo listado
Spilogale angustifrons
Zorrillo manchado
Nasua narica
Procyon lotor
F, M, W
Wa´la/wala**, Guayan*
Pecari tajacu
Cuche de monte
Odocoileus virginianus
Venado cola blanca
F, M, W, A, O
Yan**, Akuan*
Dasyprocta punctata
Cuniculus paca
F, M
Glaucomys volans
Ardilla planeadora
Tasta**, Shuli*
Names in Kakawira (**) and Potón (*), (†) Name refers to the Jaguar, in the absence of the Jaguar, it can also be referred
to large cats; currently, the Jaguar (Panthera onca) is considered extinct in the country. Mammal use: Food (F),
Medicinal (M), Worldview (W), Artisanal (A), and Ornamental (O).
UNED Research Journal (e-ISSN 1659-441X), Vol. 12(2): e3015, December, 2020
In this study supported by indigenous and local communities, we have updated the
knowledge of mammals in El Salvador, increasing the species richness from 76 to 79 in the northeast
of the country and from 128 to 129 species of land mammals throughout the country (Owen &
Girón, 2012). We recorded the ~17% of the mammalian species in El Salvador and ~60% of medium-
sized mammals (Owen & Girón, 2012). The new species documented in the northeast of the country
are T. mexicana, and P. tajacu. Also, G. volans is registered for the first time in El Salvador, although
there is no specimen or photograph yet. This record was made through direct observation by a team
of researchers and has been reported by volunteers on several occasions. Due to its unique and
unmistakable characteristics (gliding capacity), different from any other animal in the sampled area,
and the proximity of our study area with the known distribution area of the species (Diersing, 1980;
Braun, 1988; Cassola, 2016; Kohler, Olson, Martin, & Anich, 2019), it was decided to incorporate as
a valid record and recognize their presence in El Salvador.
One of the most relevant findings is the record of P. concolor in six different months during
our study (April, July, August, September, October, and November 2019), becoming the study with
the most evidence of this species in the country (see Morales-Rivas et al., 2020). This species was
considered by some authors as extinct or unlikely to inhabit the country, mainly due to the demand
for large forest areas (Campbell & Torres Alvarado, 2011; Crespin & García-Villalta, 2014; Campbell,
2015; Campbell, 2019). This result suggests conditions of good ecosystem health or at least
favorable conditions for the presence of top predators (Miller et al., 2001; Ritchie, Elmhagen, Glen,
Letnic, Ludwig, & McDonald, 2012; Barry et al., 2019), although the adaptation of large predators is
also possible in disturbed ecosystems (Moss, Alldredge, Logan, & Pauli, 2016). Despite the
traditional uses of mammals in the territory, currently, local communities and indigenous people
promote the protection of wildlife. Considering the spiritual value of Cougars in the Kakawira-Lenca
culture and its recent records, an important link between beliefs and conservation of the species
can be generated. Cougars are considered guardian spirits of the forest, which can be a powerful
tool to create a positive image that helps conserve the species and natural forest that remains in
the northeast of the country.
Due to the small amount of protected area in El Salvador (less than 9% of the territory), it is
likely not enough to protect much of the biodiversity of this country, especially big predators like a
Cougar (Crespin & García-Villalta, 2014). Our findings occur outside protected areas, which supports
the proposal to generate management tools through biological corridors for biodiversity
conservation within a landscape intermixed between forests, agricultural-livestock areas, and rural
areas (Crespin & García-Villalta, 2014). Within our study area, there are efforts to establish private
protected areas through the organization of forest owners. This strategy would contribute greatly
to the survival of species through the conservation and connectivity of forest cover for El Salvador.
Future works should be aimed at structuring these proposals for this area of study. Our work
contributes to these efforts of local environmental governance and the participation of local actors
in this study generates legitimacy in the use of this information (Berkes, 2007; Conrad & Hilchey,
2011; Parsons, Goforth, Costello, & Kays, 2018; Mohedano Roldán, Duit, & Schultz, 2019).
Future efforts of wildlife conservation must consider communication strategies about the
perception of wildlife in this area, given that consultation with local communities and some
researchers, suggests there are fears or myths about some predators that can generate conflict
(Campbell & Torres-Alvarado, 2011). Despite this, our study does not identify any conflict with
wildlife, so the forest in the area can likely sustain abundant or necessary prey to support big
predators. Our results show different trophic guilds, which may suggest a balance in the ecosystem
(Terborgh & Estes, 2013), but this affirmation is open to discussion for future works. On the other
UNED Research Journal (e-ISSN 1659-441X), Vol. 12(2): e3015, December, 2020
hand, there is evidence of hunters, cattle, cats, and feral dogs in these forests, which is a warning
call for the authorities responsible for watching over wildlife, taking actions to control poaching,
watching over the health of the ecosystem, and avoiding future conflicts with wildlife. The use of
camera traps with local community volunteer support can generate important data, a fact that was
confirmed by the study, but it is important to first solve the challenges of creating a team of
volunteers with training, equipment acquisition (camera traps, computer, GPS), and financing. This
participatory effort allowed us to identify species that are difficult to detect the previous experience
of the volunteers was crucial in this study. Also, we managed to encourage community participation
and generate capacities that will be very useful in the following steps of this participatory research,
where new techniques for the documentation of other mammals such as bats and small rodents will
be included.
Finally, our results suggest that the forests of the northeastern of El Salvador has a high
mammal species richness and their conservation should be a priority for decision-makers. This is the
first initiative that exists in El Salvador, and probably one of the few efforts in the Central American
region (e.g. Arévalo, Méndez, Roberts, Alvarado, & Vargas, 2015; Monge-Nájera & Seas, 2018),
where local communities and indigenous leaders participate in the production of scientific material.
Also, we collected valuable cultural information and identified links between ancestral knowledge
and local conservation efforts of Kakawira-Lenca culture. The Kakawira-Lenca culture corresponds
to one of the most representative indigenous groups in the country. However, there is little
information about their worldview, language, and writing, due to the drastic decrease in their
inhabitants (Lemus, 2010; Pineda, 2016). This effort is probably likely to be one of the first or one of
the few available scientific documents of both cultures regarding biodiversity. This effort of involving
local communities was an opportunity to promote research and generate scientific knowledge
under a community science approach. Unlike in other areas of the country where there is usually
not a strong social organization and illicit associations predominate, the social organization
established in this territory facilitated our study. Therefore, the involvement of local communities
in this territory can be an example of successful participatory work between researchers and local
actors in El Salvador. We hope this information can be used within local conservation strategies, and
that it can promote the cultural link between the Kakawira-Lenca roots and the intrinsic value of
biodiversity in order to generate wildlife conservation participative mechanisms.
We are grateful to Asociación Territorios Vivos El Salvador, BioSistemas Network, and
Fundación Naturaleza El Salvador for providing camera traps for this research project. We are
grateful to Guanacaste Wildlife Monitoring for the technical support in this study. Also, we are
grateful for the Municipal Environmental Unit of Joateca, Jesús Santiago Chica Pereira, Julio César
Pereira Hernández, Hermes Leónidas López Ramos, Leonel Méndez, Jeffrey Colledge, and Bianca
Villacorta for their contribution to this investigation. Finally, we thank the land-owners who
permitted to access their properties.
The authors declare that they have fully complied with all pertinent ethical and legal
requirements, both during the study and in the production of the manuscript; that there are no
conflicts of interest of any kind; that all financial sources are fully and clearly stated in the
acknowledgments section; and that they fully agree with the final edited version of the article. A
signed document has been filed in the journal archives.
UNED Research Journal (e-ISSN 1659-441X), Vol. 12(2): e3015, December, 2020
The declaration of the contribution of each author to the manuscript is as follows: J.G.A.R.,
E.A.A.R., J.P.A.R. and M.C.C.: Data collection and analysis. M.S.H., J.H.C. and V.P.M.: Data collection.
X.P-O., L.G. and F.S.A.: Data collection, data analysis, writing and review of the manuscript.
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Digital Appendix
Description of 17 sampling sites in the northern area of Morazán, in the period from August 2018-December 2019.
to the
river (km)
Distance to
the road
13° 55.808'N
88° 6.200'O
13° 55.931'N
88° 6.205'O
13° 56.088'N
88° 6.134'O
13° 56.239'N
88° 6.005'O
13° 56.210'N
88° 5.860'O
13° 56.091'N
88° 5.963'O
13° 55.761'N
88° 6.102'O
13° 51.896'N
88° 5.702'O
13° 52.174'N
88° 5.502'O
13° 52.681'N
88° 5.698'O
13° 51.802'N
88° 4.990'O
13° 52.818'N
88° 5.455'O
13° 51.880'N
88° 5.558'O
13° 54.604'N
88° 4.373'O
13° 56.361'N
88° 5.789'O
13° 55.865'N
88° 4.977'O
13° 56.807'N
88° 6.177'O
The land use comes of circular areas with a diameter of 250 m, taking as a central point the location of each camera traps.
The proximity to water sources and roads, which was measured in meters and km in a straight line, respectively. This was
done in a single measurement using Geographic Information System (GIS).
UNED Research Journal (e-ISSN 1659-441X), Vol. 12(2): e3015, December, 2020
Fig. 1. Study area in the municipalities of Joateca and Arambala, Morazán department, El Salvador. Dark gray polygons
represent municipalities with indigenous communities of the Department of Morazán, and green polygons represent
forest cover.
UNED Research Journal (e-ISSN 1659-441X), Vol. 12(2): e3015, December, 2020
Fig. 2. Species identified in camera traps: A) Didelphis marsupialis, B) Philander opossum, C) Dasypus novemcinctus, D)
Tamandua mexicana, E) Desmodus rotundus flying over a cow inside the forest, and F) Sylvilagus floridanus.
UNED Research Journal (e-ISSN 1659-441X), Vol. 12(2): e3015, December, 2020
Fig. 3. Species identified in camera traps: A) Leopardus wiedii, B) Puma concolor, C) Puma yagouaroundi, D) Canis
latrans, E) Urocyon cinereoargenteus, and F) Conepatus leuconotus.
UNED Research Journal (e-ISSN 1659-441X), Vol. 12(2): e3015, December, 2020
Fig. 4. Species identified in camera traps: A) Spilogale angustifrons, B) Pecari tajacu, C) Odocoileus virginianus, D)
Dasyprocta punctata, E) Cuniculus paca, and F) Canis lupus familiaris (Domestic dog).
... In the Central American region, only a few studies report on the distribution (e.g., Chehébar 1990;Aceituno et al. 2015;Rheingantz and Trinca 2015), diet, and habitat selection (Spínola-Parallada and Vaughan-Dickhaut 1995; Platt and Rainwater 2011;Navarro-Picado et al. 2017) of this species. In El Salvador, the presence of this species has been reported in the scientific literature from only five localities: Río Sensunapán, Río Sucio, Río La Palma, and two records in the middle and lower basin in the Río Sapo (Burt and Stirton 1961;Owen et al. 1991;Owen and Girón 2012;Argueta-Rivera et al. 2020), and there are no recent publications on distribution patterns or the conservation status of L. longicaudis in the country. Therefore, we document new records of L. longicau dis in El Salvador and other data to better determine the distribution patterns of this species in El Salvador. ...
... Río Sapo has records from various years (Owen and Girón 2012;Argueta-Rivera et al. 2020) and in different sectors (middle and low basin). It is possibly that low human disturbance in this river has benefited this species, supporting the management and conservation proposals for this area, as suggested by Argueta-Rivera et al. (2020) and Morales-Rivas et al. (2020). ...
... Río Sapo has records from various years (Owen and Girón 2012;Argueta-Rivera et al. 2020) and in different sectors (middle and low basin). It is possibly that low human disturbance in this river has benefited this species, supporting the management and conservation proposals for this area, as suggested by Argueta-Rivera et al. (2020) and Morales-Rivas et al. (2020). ...
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Lontra longicaudis Olfers, 1818 (Neotropical Otter) has been poorly studied in El Salvador. We report sightings and traces of L. longicaudis which were found in Río Angue, in the department of Santa Ana, and Río Sapo, Río Negro, and Quebrada de Perquín, in the department of Morazán. Moreover, we review the sight records of the species in the scientific literature, the mammal collection of the University of California, Los Angeles, and citizen reports with verifiable evidence. This is the first compilation of information on L. longicaudis occurrences in El Salvador.
... This study belongs to a series of works carried out for the study area whose purpose is to generate scientific knowledge under a community science or citizen science approach (see Morales-Rivas et al., 2020;Argueta et al., 2020), an approach that has been expanded greatly in recent years and has proven to be a reliable technique for co-producing scientific knowledge (Kosmala et al., 2016;Fritz et al., 2019;Rowley et al., 2019;Callaghan et al., 2020). It is probably that this study is the first count and bioacoustics analysis of glassfrog in El Salvador and perhaps is the only one with more records and information on this species in the country. ...
Full-text available
Introduction: Glass frogs occur from Mexico to South America, and, their taxonomy and distribution are currently debated. In El Salvador, the only species is thought to be Hyalinobatrachium fleischmanni, but it may instead be Hyalinobatrachium viridissimum. In any case, the species is scarcely recorded and understudied. Objective: To estimate the species distribution in the Río Lempa basin, and to compare its call with available records. Methods: We used local volunteers to sample 53 sites in Cabañas and Morazán, El Salvador, during the rainy season (September to November); these were visited once in 2019 and once in 2020. Volunteers counted individuals along transects from 6 to 8 pm and recorded some calls with cell phones. Results: We counted 361 individuals, added 53 new localities (mainly deciduous broad-leaved forest and agricultural systems). Abundance was more related with elevation and forest cover, than with river characteristics. Our evaluation of 32 calls found differences in the peak frequency between these glass frog populations and those of H. fleischmanni and H. viridissimum comb. nov. Conclusion: Salvadorian glass frogs are more widespread than previously recorded, their distribution is more related with elevation and forest than with rivers types, and their taxonomic status remains unsolved.
Full-text available
The presence of Puma, Puma concolor , has been controversial in El Salvador due to the lack of published, verifiable data. We surveyed 119 sites in Montecristo National Park and 17 sites in the Río Sapo basin using wildlife cameras. We detected Pumas in both areas, representing the first photographic records for El Salvador. We call for a national Puma conservation strategy with research in basic ecology and migration corridors, regulation of hunting, management of livestock losses, and public acceptance programs. The Río Sapo basin should be granted formal protection.
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Although monitoring of animal populations for informed decision making is fundamental for the conservation and management of biodiversity, monitoring programs are not widely implemented. In addition, monitoring plans often represent an economic burden for many conservation organizations. Here we report on the monitoring of five focal species of mammals in the Tilarán mountain range, Costa Rica. We used a participatory approach in which trained rangers of four institutions conducted trail surveys in an area of ca 50,000ha to determine the presence/absence of the paca (Cuniculus paca), collared peccary (Pecari tajacu), tapir (Tapirus bairdii), jaguar (Panthera onca) and puma (Puma concolor) using track collections. Permanent transects of 3 km were sampled on the same day every month in 2000-01 (141 km) and 2009-10 (303 km). Four of the five focal species were registered in our sampling. One of the most valuable outcomes of the study was the initiative of the rangers to train community members to participate in the monitoring plan. We believe that this participatory approach not only has great potential for the integration of rangers in long term monitoring, but also the incorporation of citizen science-based programs. Multi-institutional collaboration for species monitoring could reduce costs and increase the sampling effort.
Full-text available
The aim of this paper is to investigate if stakeholder participation increases the legitimacy of nature reserves in the surrounding community. Most previous studies of the effects of stakeholder participation in natural resource management have relied on case studies, but in this paper we use a combination of panel data from a two-wave survey (2008 and 2013) of 92 Biosphere Reserves (BRs) in 36 countries and semi-structured interview data from 65 stakeholder respondents in a sub-sample of 10 BRs to systematically investigate the effects of stakeholder participation on the legitimacy of the natural reserve in the local community. The data cover four levels of stakeholder participation: (1) Information, (2) Implementation, (3) Involvement and (4) Representation. These levels roughly correspond to rungs on Arnstein’s ladder of participation, and the expected outcome is that the legitimacy of the nature reserve will increase in the surrounding local community as the degree of participation increases. However, findings suggest that there is no linear relationship between participation and legitimacy: climbing upwards on Arnstein’s ladder of participation does not uniformly enhance the level of legitimacy of the nature reserve in the local community. Instead, a practice-based form of participation is what seems to increase legitimacy.
Full-text available
Environmental and resource governance models emphasize the importance of local community and civil society participation to achieve social equity and environmental sustainability goals. Yet authoritarian political formations often undermine such participation through violent repression of dissent. This article seeks to advance understandings of violence against environmental and community activists challenging authoritarian forms of environmental and resource governance through eco-populist struggles. Authoritarianism and populism entertain complex relationships, including authoritarian practices toward and within eco-populist movements. Examining a major agrarian conflict and the killing of a prominent Indigenous leader in Honduras, we point to the frequent occurrence of deadly repression within societies experiencing high levels of inequalities, historical marginalization of Indigenous and peasant communities, a liberalization of foreign and private investments in land-based sectors, and recent reversals in partial democratization processes taking place within a broader context of high homicidal violence and impunity rates. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of deadly repression on environmental and land defenders. Key words: authoritarianism, environmental defenders, Honduras, populism, repression.
Full-text available
Ecosystem engineers create physical changes in abiotic and biotic material, and through this process control the availability of resources for other species. Predators that abandon large portions of their prey may be ecosystem engineers that create habitat for carrion-dependent invertebrates that utilize carcasses during critical life-history periods. Between 04-May-2016 and 04-Oct-2016, we sampled beetle assemblages at 18 carcasses of prey killed by pumas and matching control sites in the southern Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, USA, to measure the extent to which beetle families utilized these carcass “habitats”. We used generalized linear-mixed models and linear-mixed effect models to examine changes in beetle abundance, species richness, and Simpson’s Index of Diversity. We estimated kill rates and carrion production rates for individual pumas to better assess the impact of pumas on invertebrate communities. We collected 24,209 beetles representing 215 species. We identified eight beetle families that had significantly higher abundance at carcasses than control sites. Carcasses had a statistically large to very large effect (determined using Cohen’s d) on beetle abundance, richness, and diversity for the initial 8 weeks of sampling. Our research revealed strong effects of an ecosystem engineer on beetle assemblages while highlighting the potential role of apex predators in creating and modifying physical habitats for carrion-dependent species. This suggests that there may be consequences for invertebrate communities where apex predators exist at reduced numbers or have been eradicated. The ecological role of invertebrates is often overlooked, yet they are essential taxa that provide critical ecological services upon which we depend.
Full-text available
Ateles geoffroyi es uno de los más grandes monos del Neotropico y su distribución va desde México al norte de Colombia. El mono araña (Ateles geoffroyi) en la laguna Olomega, Departmento de San Miguel (Este de El Salvador) fue reportado por última vez en 1944, hace más de 70 años. Se presenta información sobre el redescubrimiento de esta especie en el área donde se creía localmente extinto. También se considera que hay una necesidad urgente de estudiar, monitorear y proteger esta población para contribuir a la conservación de esta especie altamente en peligro en El Salvador.
Full-text available
p>Este artículo revisa la ruta crítica hacia el reconocimiento de los pueblos indígenas de El Salvador a partir de las leyes coloniales de protección, pasando a la supresión de tales regulaciones, hasta las leyes de extinción de las tierras comunales durante el siglo XIX. Posteriormente, se menciona el genocidio de 1932 y la amnistía concedida a sus autores, así como el reconocimiento de los derechos de los pueblos indígenas en el derecho interno e internacional en los primeros años de este siglo. El artículo concluye enumerando los pasos a tomar con las comunidades indígenas para cambiar su realidad y lograr la visión intercultural como país. TEORÍA Y PRAXIS año 14, No.28, Enero-Mayo de 2016, pp. 107-132</p
Human quality of life (QOL), a vital aspect of human habitation of landscapes, is influenced not only by societal relations and the physical environment but also by human–animal relations. Large carnivores affect QOL negatively, through people’s fear of threats and attacks, and actual observations of aggressive behavior. Such carnivores may also make contributions to QOL, though aesthetic viewing of biodiversity and conservation values. In Latin America, the largest carnivores are the jaguars and the cougars. In El Salvador, these species are nearly extinct or totally extinct. However, people are aware of the impacts of their presence, due to the media, generational communications and the nearby, reduced ranges of these species within the surrounding Mesoamerican Biodiversity Hotspot. This chapter examines the links between QOL and possibilities for big cat—human reintroductions in El Salvador. There is evidence of societal support for big cat reintroductions as supportive of QOL and conservation. However, there may be serious impacts on QOL from such reintroductions, as El Salvador is not a large country, and it has a large population. Also, favorable habitat has been reduced due to the historic civil war. The remaining habitat is close to farmland and urban centers, and the population of prey animals has declined. Isolated forests, excessive human hunting of prey animals and the devastating effects of the recent civil war also militate against a successful reintroduction. This study contributes to knowledge of QOL and conservation issues.
Fluorescence of visible wavelengths under ultraviolet (UV) light has been previously detected in a wide range of birds, reptiles, and amphibians and a few marsupial mammals. Here, we report the discovery of vivid UV fluorescence of the pelage in Glaucomys, the New World flying squirrels. Fluorescence in varying intensities of pink was observed in females and males of all extant species (G. oregonensis, G. sabrinus, and G. volans) across all sampled geographic areas in North and Central America and a temporal range of 130 years. We observed fluorescence in museum specimens (n = 109) and wild individuals (n = 5) on both dorsal and ventral surfaces. Museum specimens of three co-occurring, diurnal sciurid species (Sciurus carolinensis, S. niger, and Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) were also examined but did not fluoresce. The ecological significance of this trait in the nocturnal–crepuscular flying squirrels warrants further investigation.