It’s down to the wire with my 2010 reading challenges and I must confess that I haven’t done very well on either of them. I blame Twitter and soccer! But there is still time to salvage something before the new year, and I started with the Species of the Mexican Bicentennial (which conveniently combines both challenges!). It is a web companion to a special 2010 wall calendar that features plants and animals that have some connection to Mexico’s centennial and bicentennial, mainly by virtue of being named after important historical figures. Many of them are endangered, such as the adorable volcano rabbit (Romerolagus diazi). This tiny rabbit lives only on the volcanoes near Mexico City, and has been decimated by habitat destruction and attempts by farmers to eradicate them. There are two national parks in their range but even there they are not entirely safe because of lack of enforcement. Killing them anywhere is now illegal and so their numbers are rebounding slowly, but their habitat continues to shrink.
One doesn’t often think of desert plants as being endangered, but there are two endangered cacti on the calendar, including the pretty artichoke cactus (Obregonia dengrii). This plant has been over-harvested for the horticultural trade (it is a popular garden plant in arid zones) and also as a remedy for rheumatism. It is now protected by law both nationally and internationally, and there is hope that a proposed nature reserve will help reverse its rapid decline.
The Species of the Mexican Bicentennial is only a tiny sampling of Mexico’s biodiversity. Mexico is one of 12 “megadiverse” countries and is home to more than 10% of the world’s species, including 45% of cacti and 75% of agaves. The IUCN lists nearly 1000 vulnerable or endangered species in Mexico, and those are only the ones we know about. You don’t need to go to the Amazon to see amazing biodiversity, there is still much to discover right in our own back yard.