Harnessing the power of AI and community centered approaches to monitor Jaguars in the Yucatan Peninsula

Tech4Nature Mexico
Published: 22 September 2022
Last edited: 12 September 2023
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Mexico is recognized as a megadiverse country, housing approximately 12% of the world's species. The country safeguards a rich natural and cultural heritage through the efforts of indigenous communities. The Yucatan Peninsula, in the southeast, is ecologically rich, featuring rainforests, coral reefs, mangroves, and more, but these ecosystems are rapidly deteriorating due to human activities and climate change. Nearly 80% of the rainforests are disturbed, with only 22% covered by mature vegetation, primarily in protected areas.


The Tech4Nature Mexico pilot project employs continuous biodiversity monitoring and artificial intelligence systems for the detection and conservation of priority species in the Dzilam State Reserve, to strengthen the understanding of the impacts of climate change on the area. This approach has been materialized through the inclusion of the community as main partners and contributors, the application of machine learning techniques and the construction of multi-sectoral alliances.


North America
Scale of implementation
Coastal forest
Forest ecosystems
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Rangeland / Pasture
Tropical deciduous forest
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Connectivity / transboundary conservation
Ecosystem services
Indigenous people
Local actors
Outreach & communications
Protected and conserved areas governance
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Science and research
Species management
Sustainable livelihoods
Traditional knowledge
Species Conservation and One Health Interventions
Species Monitoring and Research
Species Conservation Planning
One Health
Animal health
Biodiversity-health nexus
Good governance of landscapes
Loss of Biodiversity
Ecosystem loss
Sustainable development goals
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced
Target 10: Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 17: Biodiversity strategies and action plans
Target 18: Traditional knowledge
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge
Business engagement approach
Direct engagement with a company
Direct engagement with associations


Dzilam de Bravo, Dzilam de Bravo Municipality, Yucatán 97606, Mexico
Show on Protected Planet


Jaguar populations have lost approximately 50% of its habitat across the continent. The situation in Mexico is especially disconcerting, as the species has experienced a reduction of over 40% of its territorial range.


Meanwhile, the ecosystems of the Yucatan Peninsula (home to nearly half of the country's jaguars) are undergoing rapid degradation, with profound implications for jaguar populations, which find themselves increasingly cornered by habitat destruction, and human-jaguar conflicts. Furthermore, the Yucatan Peninsula has become a hotspot for illegal jaguar hunting and trafficking.


In the specific context of the Dzilam State Reserve, this area faces multiple threats, from land-use alterations and biodiversity loss, to heightened susceptibility to extreme weather phenomena.


Moreover, monitoring jaguars remains an resource-intensive endeavor, given the absence of surveillance mechanisms spanning vast areas, which hinders the capacity to gather crucial data for their protection.


  • Local, regional, and national government institutions
  • Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities
  • AI and data practitioners and students
  • Academic institutions
  • Environmental organizations
  • Civil society
  • Private sector

How do the building blocks interact?

The Tech4Nature Mexico pilot's results exemplify holistic synergy among its building blocks, embracing a human-nature-centric approach with enduring regional impact. By uniting cutting-edge technology with a profound commitment to conservation, local perspectives, and multi-stakeholder collaborations, this pilot has not only transformed the understanding of the Reserve's extraordinary biodiversity but has also fortified local engagement to its protection. 


This initiative confirmed the presence of several species at varying risk levels. This rich data underpins targeted conservation and informed decisions, empowering local communities and strengthening conservation efforts, while becoming indispensable tools for strengthening conservation efforts. Furthermore, continuous monitoring efforts and increased authorities' presence have led to a tangible reduction in human threats, underlining the impact of the community's involvement in the project.


Beyond the Reserve's boundaries, this project is catalyzing a transformative wave in regional conservation, where the fusion of advanced technology and multi-stakeholder collaboration redefines biodiversity protection.


The Tech4Nature Mexico project has yielded groundbreaking results within the Dzilam State Reserve. Through advanced monitoring algorithms, the project has confirmed the presence of 146 species, including 38 at risk, reaffirming the significance of their protection. This newfound knowledge has not only enriched local communities' understanding of their environment but also empowered them to actively engage in conservation efforts. The project's automatic jaguar identification model has paved the way to enhance the protection of their habitats. Furthermore, the project's data has international implications, influencing the Reserve's inclusion in the prestigious IUCN Green List and enhancing its management program. Through continuous monitoring and community involvement, the project has reduced human threats to wildlife, ensuring a safer environment.


Some of the technical impacts of the project are:


  • Over 80,000 images and videos, and over 600,000 acoustic files collected

  • 4,000 hectares covered (mangroves, jungle and savannah).

  • Species richness of ​​111 birds, 23 mammals (7 jaguars have been identified so far), 6 reptiles, 6 amphibians.

  • 138  species included in the acoustic Pattern Matching models (CNN).

  • 93% precision of the image algorithm capable of detecting and identifying jaguars.


Tech4Nature Mexico

In January 1989, the Dzilam State Reserve earned its designation as a protected natural area. A groundbreaking management plan, an annual operating program, and a vigilant oversight body were established—an unprecedented leap forward in Mexican conservation history at that time. Yet, despite these strides, the management program didn't find its way into the Official Gazette of the Government of the State of Yucatan until 2005. From that point on, the reserve's approach centered on the vital notion that preserving nature must harmonize with ensuring the well-being of its inhabitants.


However, the encroachment of agriculture toward the reserve has led to the displacement of large mammal species, possibly the primary factor behind the decline in populations of magnificent big cats like the jaguar. Predators often clash with human interests as they target domestic animals, especially livestock.


Juan Castillo's upbringing was amidst a family of nomads, traversing the jungle long before it gained protected status. Settling near water sources, they thrived through hunting, farming, and cattle-raising. Juan, like his family, once believed that defending cattle against jaguars was paramount, even if it meant killing the big cats.


As years passed, he came to a profound realization—his family and he were the ones encroaching on the jaguar's habitat, consuming its resources, not the other way around. He took a bold step by removing his cattle from the reserve and relocating to the city.


Now a grandfather, Juan imparts his love for nature to his grandchildren, instilling in them the understanding that these species hold greater value alive than dead, crucial for the survival of the forest, its myriad inhabitants, and, ultimately, the people.


Today, Juan is resolute in his decision to donate his land for conservation, even though it lies within the reserve and is legally his property. Alongside his friend Benjamin, a reformed hunter, they have become eminent guides, explorers, and passionate advocates for jaguar conservation and the preservation of their prey, the rainforest, and the mangroves. They diligently tend to camera traps and acoustic monitoring devices, ensuring everyone's safety within the Teceh4Nature Mexico project. Juan Castillo has emerged as an international champion for conservation, revered for his tireless dedication to this noble cause.

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Regina Cervera C Minds