Take refuge here!

By Barbara Erickson

Here in Mexico the biodiversity is staggering. Mexico is considered one of 12 mega-diverse countries; home to between 10 and 12 percent of global biodiversity. The numbers:

Largest number of reptiles in the world – 717

Second highest number of terrestrial mammals – 455

Ten percent of the world’s butterfly species

Fourth in amphibians – 282

Fourth in higher plants – 26,000

Guerrero is one of the five Mexican states with the greatest biological wealth. The major vegetation types of Guerrero are coniferous forest, oak forest, mountain forest, deciduous forest (Tropical Dry Forest), xerophytic scrub (the Dunes), gallery forest and mangroves.

How can we encounter and learn about this wealth of biodiversity?

One delightful way is to visit El Refugio de Potosí. The refuge is situated in a perfect place to advance the study and understanding of the mega diversity of the area and of Mexico in general, with dunes, salt flats, lagoons with mangroves, tropical dry forest, coconut groves and beach all close at hand. Located on the road to the fishing village of Barra de Potosí, near Zihuatanejo, it is an easy trip from San Miguel.

El Refugio de Potosí is an educational center and the only authorized animal rescue center in the state of Guerrero.  When you walk into the visitor’s center, six juvenile brown boobies, a tiny armadillo named Shrek, a ferruginous pygmy owl named Chuleta, a Mexican hairy dwarf porcupine called Lala, a half a dozen busy military macaws and a host of other creatures will be waiting to receive you. The boobies are short time visitors, staying only long enough to recuperate and learn to fly, while Shrek, Lala, Chuleta and the macaws are ambassador animals that cannot go back to the wild. The ever changing cast of creatures highlights one of the delightful reasons to return again and again to El Refugio de Potosí.

Aside from the rehabilitation and usual release of wild creatures, El Refugio’s principle focus is teaching local biodiversity awareness to visitors. Their visitors have direct hands on experience of wild animals and nature, often for the very first time. This personal contact with wild animals generates the emotions that lead to conservation.  In general, people are more receptive to the message of conservation after a positive tangible experience like a visit to El Refugio.

El Refugio spearheads local efforts to get the message of regional biodiversity and conservation out to schoolchildren with a program that brings the information into local schools. At the first local Christmas Bird Count in December, volunteers sighted  130 species. Volunteer student biologists come for fieldwork experience and to complete their theses. Members from around the world help provide financial support. Last year Audubon San Miguel made a visit and enjoyed the biodiversity of the local Tropical Dry Forest. It takes the world to make it happen! So come and take a moment of refuge!

The Audubon group is planning a trip here in mid March. Stay tuned for more information

El Refugio de Potosí, Hours of Operation: Sun, Mon, Thu, 10am-5pm. Last tour 4:30pm. Phone: 775-100-0743 (Group reservations available by reservation). General Admission: 60 pesos. Located on the Road between Los Achotes and Barra de Potosí, in Zihuatanejo. www.elrefugiodePotosí.org



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