[Ocean Oasis Conservation] Imágen Satelital de la Península de Baja California y el golfo de California See Spanish version

[The Lower Gulf]
Bay of Loreto | Isla Coronado | Isla Espíritu Santo

[OCEAN OASIS introduction] [Conservation] [History of conservation efforts in the Gulf of California] [Development of Biosphere Reserves] [Present status of the islands as protected areas] [Northern Gulf] [Midriff Islands] [Lower Gulf] [References] [Map of protected areas] [Links to Conservation Resources] [Site Index] [Isla del Carmen] Photo of Isla Carmen

Possibly the most scenic of the islands of the bay of Loreto, Isla del Carmen has been for many years a favorite destination for ecologically-aware tourists, and plays a major role both in the reserve of the Islands of the Gulf of California in general, and in the National Park of the Bay of Loreto in particular.

Based on the apparent success of the breeding program of the Sonoran Bighorn in Isla Tiburón, the National Institute of Ecology (INE) of the Mexican Federal Government decided to promote a similar program in Isla del Carmen. The Baja California bighorn subspecies (Ovis canadensis weemsi) is a highly endemic taxa that is only found in the Sierras El Mechudo, La Giganta, and Las Tres Vírgenes within the peninsula of Baja California. In 1995, a Mexican company, Salinas del Pacífico S. A., presented a project to recover the peninsular populations of bighorn by breeding them in the protected environment of Isla del Carmen.

The National Institute of Ecology supported the plan, and gave the company a permit to capture 15 adult bighorn, 12 females and 3 males, in the Sierra de El Mechudo. The plan establishes that when the herd reaches 175 individuals in an estimated time of 10 years, adults will be captured and used to repopulate the peninsular mainland. The plan, however, was received with certain criticism by conservationists in the peninsula for the following reasons:

  • The peninsular population was evaluated in the early 1980s, and the count gave some 5,000-7,000 individuals.
  • There is no evidence that the mainland population is in any danger.
  • A reduced number of less than 175 does not seem sufficiently large to insure a population of many thousand.
  • Although the Baja California bighorn is indeed a rare and valuable wildlife species, trying to insure its long-term survival through a program that is based on the introduction of these game animals into fragile island environments is questionable.
In short, although the bighorn program in Isla del Carmen was done with a conservationist justification, there is reason to put in doubt the true value of the enterprise from a true conservationist perspective.

Continue to
The Lower Gulf: Isla Espíritu Santo

Text adapted from the conservation chapter of the book Island Biogeography in the Sea of Cortés, a forthcoming volume edited by Ted Case, Martin Cody, and Exequiel Ezcurra. The chapter was authored by Luis Bourillon, Antonio Cantú, Exequiel Ezcurra, María Elena Martínez, and Alejandro Robles.

Photograph by Bradford Hollingsworth

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