• Forest fires
• Advance of the cattle and agricultural frontiers
• Illeglal logging and hunting
• Introduction of exotic species
The biotope is a critically threatened area that will not succeed in protecting and maintaining its biological diversity in the short term unless emergency actions are taken. The principal threats include the advance of the agricultural and cattle frontiers, which are gradually isolating the area. Forest fires, illegal hunting and wood extraction, and lack of institutional control are among other worrisome threats. The Center for Conservation Studies has not been able to take full control of the biotope.
Forest fires can cause substantial damage to the biotope. Cerro Cahuí was spared when the most damaging forest fires in the history of Petén occurred in 1998 and 2003. CEMEC/CONAP's satellite imagery (1999a) and field evaluations done by ParksWatch demonstrate that the 1998 forest fires surrounded the biotope's agricultural area and the northern and western zones. Every year, fires start in the ever-expanding agricultural zones of the biotope. A small fire that broke out in 2003 was successfully controlled, but the surroundings were not protected and the biotope could have been reduced to ashes (Albacete, 2003).
This problem is linked to the ever-increasing human activities inside the area. The main causes are cattle ranching and agriculture in the buffer zone, which is being rapidly depleted. The lack of action from the state and individuals to prevent the deforestation of the areas adjacent to the biotope point out to bigger problems. Time is of the essence: Cerro Cahuí is critically endangered.
Advance of the cattle and agricultural frontiers
The West and North ends of the protected area suffer the consequences of the advance of the cattle and agricultural frontiers. Statistics show that 3% of the forest has been felled for agricultural purposes since the area was created. Before the official declaration, the biotope lost 9.5% of its surface (CEMEC/CONAP, 1999b), and a recovery zone was deemed necessary. Some of the areas are now in full recovery and the advance of the agricultural frontier inside Cerro Cahuí seems to be dwindling. The problem, however, needs more attention. The loss of forest coverage in the North and West has almost isolated the protected area, which is quickly becoming an island of sorts amidst croplands and pastures. Even if soil use patterns were to be stabilized, the rapid deterioration of the landscape will have negative effects in the near future.
Illegal logging and hunting
As in other areas of the MBR, the problems that arise from illegal extraction of forest products and illegal hunting are very difficult to control because the protected area is easily accessible and institutional control almost non-existent. Although park rangers have repeatedly denounced illegal logging, no actions have been undertaken beyond the occasional police patrols. During a field visit in December 2003 we were able to witness illegal felling in the western part of the biotope, unbeknownst to forest rangers. Although hunting is not controlled, rangers state that it seldom occurs. The root of the problem resides in CECON's lack of capacity to survey the area. The biotope is small and there are forest rangers that can carry out steady patrols. Nighttime patrols should be established to discourage intruders. Another problem arises from the fact that forest rangers must carry out tasks not outlined in their job descriptions, such as services to visitors and custodial care of the tourist infrastructure, which takes time from their actual tasks.
Introduction of exotic species
At least two exotic flora species have been reported for the biotope: an orchid (Oeceoclades maculata) and a planted species, Mutingia calabura (Pérez et al., 2001), although this fact is not supported by research. Africanized bees have been observed, which could threat some bird nests. The full scope of the problem from these exotic species is unknown due to lack of research.
If the most serious threats faced by the biotope are not dealt with, they will only continue at the present level or escalate. If immediate solutions are not put into practice, the biotope will lose its biological diversity before it becomes evident. Reports for 2001 may indicate a decrease in fauna, which could well be the first evidence of the area not meeting its objectives.