Remember the blog about the Yucatan mascot from Mexico and how it was elected to represent it's country at the South Africa 2010 world cup? Well, this same mascot is now all ready to go for Mexico’s ALL IMPORTANT match tomorrow against Argentina! The reason it's not there already is because its homeland forests have just undergone the annual burning season. This is always a time of great worry for the mascot, and it just didn’t feel happy leaving its precious forest home behind to maybe get burnt down - again. But not anymore: with an easy mind, our footballing mascot is at this moment winging its way over the Atlantic. Do you want to know why? Well, just carry on reading and you'll find out... This is a story of success. A brightspot, where a goal has been scored for Mexico, for Rare, and for conservation. Oh yes, the animals of the forest know all about fire. They know how humans have been using it for generations, almost ritually. For humans, fire holds a strange fascination. Year after year the farmers of the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico use fire to clear their fields and grow their crops. The problem is, some farmers don’t take care and end up setting fire to more than they bargained for: because of this, huge expanses of forest can end up being destroyed.
The annual burning season occurs from Februrary to June each year. Local farmers apply traditional slash and burn agriculture to grow corn, beans, squash and other subsistence crops. A good burn will restore nutrients to the soil and ensure a good harvest.
Forest fires destroy the habitats of many plant and animal species that live only in the Yucatan peninsula.
One of these hapless victims is the Yucatan Wren (Campylorhynchus yucatanicus, photo by G. Willow), an endemic and threatened species.
Our valient mascot, ever watchful for its feathered friends’ habitat, has been keeping a close eye on the activities of the local farmers for a long time. And this year unusual things, wonderful things, have taken place: the farmers started getting together and organising themselves to make sure their agricultural fires did not get out of control! What a great surprise!
The farmers worked hard, hacking alleyways between the fields to make fire breaks, clearing accumulations of flammable vegetation, and generally making sure each prescribed burn would occur only within a contained area.Those farmers who previously tended to burn on their own took to involving others, so that there would be several people on standby for each burn. And when the burning started, not one fire got out of control! The mascot even saw farmers refrain from burning altogether if they thought the wind was too strong, even when they had taken all the precautions mentioned above. In such cases, the farmers simply waited for a calmer moment to start their fires. No wonder our mascot is surprised! With the strong drought the region has suffered this year it was expecting the worst for this burning season. But now the danger is past. The rainy season is back, giving a new lease of life to the parched vegetation. The farmers have sown their seeds, and the fresh, new plants are already bursting forth. A sign of hope, where everyone wins. Pride all round. Thanks to the incredible responsiveness and hard work of farmers, NGOs, and the local and federal government, teamwork has truly triumphed to successfully prevent and control forest fires in the Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve. Our Pride mascot should probably be sighting Cape Town in a couple of hours. With its mind at rest, it has only one thought for tomorrow’s match: ¡VIVA MÉXICO!