The biodiversity of Laguna del Tigre has not been sufficiently researched and there is very scant information about the status of most of the species that dwell within. The master plan has reported 188 bird species, 90 butterfly species, and 17 amphibian species (CONAP, 1999). The very few available systematic mammal records reveal that the area is populated by at least 40 species (Zarza and Pérez, 2000). Mammals reported in Laguna del Tigre include jaguar (Panthera onca), Baird's tapir (Tapirus bairdii), red brocket deer (Mazama americana), collared peccary (Tayassu tajacu), and howler monkey (Alouatta pigra). Laguna del Tigre boasts the highest crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii) indexes in Guatemala (Castañeda et al., 2000). The park is also one of the most important nesting sites of scarlet macaw (Ara macao) in the MBR. Eighty percent of the nests of this species recorded in Guatemala can be found in the southeastern region of the protected area and surrounding zones (McNab, 2003, pers. comm.).
Three species in Laguna del Tigre have been included in IUCN's Red List (2004) and are classified as globally endangered: mesoamerican river turtle (Dermatemys mawii), Baird's tapir (Tapirus bairdii), and black howler monkey (Alouatta pigra). Morelet's crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii), scarlet macaw (Ara macao), and several felines are endangered in the area and have been included in CONAP's Red List (2001b). The scarlet macaw (A. macao) is also included in CITES' Appendix I.
Populations of endangered species
None of the three globally endangered species that inhabit the park have been the subject of systematic research, and therefore the information available is very limited and mostly anecdotal. Very little information has been collected about the consequences of forest fires, hunting, and habitat fragmentation. Permanent monitoring programs must be established to collect reliable information about the populations.
The most recent data available for tapir populations in Laguna del Tigre reveals between 0.04 and 0.17 animals per transect kilometer (Radachowsky, 2004). This information was provided by a study on the effects of timber extraction from the AFISAP, Carmelita, and La Colorada concessions, located a few kilometers from the eastern boundary of Laguna del Tigre National Park.
Map 1: Habitat quality for Baird's tapir (Tapirus bairdii) in Laguna del Tigre. Dark green areas show high-quality habitat areas for the species, excluding human-induced factors.
Elevated human intervention is especially evident near the bodies of water of Laguna del Tigre, which might cause the decline of the tapir populations.
Mesoamerican river turtles (Dermatemys mawii) dwell in lakes, lagoons, and large rivers. They are occasionally found in permanently flooded wetlands and in some intermittent rivers with deep pits. The only existing formal research carried out in the area about this species was done in the San Pedro and Sacluc Rivers and in the Perú Lagoon. Nest sightings and transect counts reveal that the species is less abundant in places close to populated areas (Catalán, M., 2002). There are no data for the rest of the area, but anecdotal information reveals that river turtles have dwindled in the last few years (Tut, J., 2004, pers. comm.). In northern Belize (Polisar, J., 1997; Moll, D., 1986) and Mexico (Carreón, G., 2003, pers. comm.), where human intervention is less than in Guatemala, river turtle populations have also declined, which shows that the status of the species could become critical in Laguna del Tigre.
Map 2: Habitat quality for mesoamerican river turtle (Dermatemys mawii) in Laguna del Tigre. Dark green areas show high-quality habitat areas for the species, excluding human-induced factors.
Information about the status of black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) in Laguna del Tigre is also very limited. The species favors elevated and transition forests, which indicates that there are more howler monkeys in the area than Baird's tapir and river turtle. There is no information about the densities or present status of the populations in the area, although they probably coincide with the figures for Tikal National Park (5 individuals/Km2) (Coelho et al. 1976, Cant 1980). The heavy pressure exerted upon the biotope and the park, especially the fragmentation of the forest and forest fires, leads us to assume that the remaining populations in the south-central area might have severely dwindled and that there are isolated populations that do not assure the long-term existence of the species.
Map 3: Habitat quality for black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) in Laguna del Tigre. Dark green areas show high-quality habitat areas for the species, excluding human-induced factors. Red areas show the nesting sites of scarlet macaw (Ara macao) in the park and surrounding areas.
The results of studies done in the overlapping areas of the habitats preferred by each of the species, the availability of water sources, and the degree of inclination of the Laguna del Tigre terrain show that, excluding human-induced factors, the regions north and east of Laguna del Tigre around the wetlands and in the basins of the Candelaria, Xan-Chocop, and San Juan Rivers, are the most adequate for both Baird's tapir (T. bairdii) and the mesoamerican river turtle.
The basins of the Escondido and San Pedro Rivers, in the southern territory of Laguna del Tigre, are also potentially adequate habitats for both species. It should be noted that human intervention is a very critical problem in Laguna del Tigre, so the populations might have diminished or even completely disappeared from the areas under heavier pressure (see Threats section). The potential habitat quality for the three globally endangered species seems to be more fitting in the area outside the national park, especially to the north and east. A successful protection program should therefore be implemented beyond the legal boundaries of the area, on the biological corridor that connects Laguna del Tigre National Park with El Mirador Río Azul National Park, as well as in the triangular area located between northern Laguna del Tigre and the Guatemala-Mexico boundary. Although the distribution of howler monkey (Alouatta pigra) is healthier than that of the two other species, human pressure in the south-central area demonstrates that the eastern and northern sectors of Laguna del Tigre are potentially better sites for the long-term survival of the animals in question, including areas outside the legally protected area.