Jaguars or cattle? Hands off the Los Chimalapas rainforest

Jaguar surrounded by vegetation The jaguar – icon of the Los Chimalapas rainforest (photo by Mat Hayward) (© Mat Hayward / Fotolia)
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Los Chimalapas, one of Mexico’s last rainforests, is the home of the indigenous Zoque people. They have a long history of defending their forest and its biodiversity against outsiders, but now loggers and cattle ranchers are crowding in while politicians turn a blind eye. Please tell the Mexican government that enough is enough.

Call to action

To: Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico; Gabino Cué Monteagudo, Governor of Oaxaca

“Take action to protect one of Mexico’s last rainforests against an invasion by loggers and cattle ranchers.”

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The Los Chimalapas rainforest is Mexico’s most biodiverse region: no less than 146 mammal, 140 reptile and amphibian, 316 bird and 900 butterfly species have been documented there.

The forest in the southeast of Mexico is also the ancestral home and recognized territory of the Zoque people. With their traditional way of life, they have sustained the rich nature of Los Chimalapas to this day. Time and again, however, the Zoque have had to defend the 600,000-hectare rainforest in the state of Oaxaca against intruders.

Increasing numbers of loggers and cattle ranchers are currently pushing into Los Chimalapas from the neighboring state of Chiapas. The state government of Chiapas is condoning the land grabs and fueling the conflict while the Mexican federal and Oaxaca state governments are standing by idly.

The fate of one of the last rainforest areas in Mexico hangs in the balance – and with it the region’s biodiversity and the traditional way of life of the Zoque. The indigenous people have set up roadblocks, their protest signs reading: “Mother Earth must not be plundered! The people in Chimalapas are fighting for survival!”

A dialog to resolve the conflict chaired by the governor of Oaxaca is set to begin on the 1st of April. The Zoque will then reopen the highway from Oaxaca to Chiapas and Veracruz.

It is not yet clear whether the politicians are truly committed to resolving the conflict, so the Zoque and Mexican environmentalists are calling for support from abroad. Ensuring that the Mexican government is aware that the international community is invested in saving the Los Chimalapas rainforest will increase the chances of its preservation. Please lend your voice to our petition.


To: Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico; Gabino Cué Monteagudo, Governor of Oaxaca

Dear Mr. President, dear Governor Cué,

The Los Chimalapas region in Oaxaca is the undisputed biodiversity hotspot of Mexico and Mesoamerica. The 600,000-hectare rainforest has been preserved thanks to the traditional beliefs, way of life and activism of the Zoque people, the indigenous residents of the region.

However, the eastern part of Los Chimalapas is now being occupied by loggers and cattle ranchers from neighboring Chiapas. More than 160,000 hectares of old-growth forest have already been plundered with the backing of the Chiapas state government.

The communities in Los Chimalapas have responded with a determined but peaceful struggle to defend their territory and its precious natural resources. The people have mobilized repeatedly to stop land grabs, as in this most recent case.

As the leaders of Mexico and Oaxaca, it is a question of your political will to act promptly and effectively to stop the destruction of this forest and end the land grabs. By ensuring that the collective rights of the Zoque people are honored, you will also contribute to preventing a climate of social unrest in the region.

As a nature lover and defender of human rights, I urge you to take action without delay. Thank you.