Conservation in Action: An Interview with Sergio Avila-VillegasKatherine A. Thichava
Right now, the Rainforest Site is working to raise the funds required to allow a team of scientists to travel to the Sierra de Huérfana. Their goal: to collect the data necessary to ensure 32,000 acres in and around Sierra de Huérfana are protected forever.
One of the scientists who will be participating in the expedition is Sergio Avila, a biologist and big cat expert. Learn more about Sergio and his role in the protection of Sierra de Huérfana in this interview!
Can you please introduce yourself and explain your role with the Sky Island Alliance?
Sergio Avila; Biologist; Mexican National. I am the manager of the Northern Mexico Conservation program, within which MABA operates. I’ve worked with Sky Island Alliance (SIA) since 2005, first involved as a wildlife tracking instructor volunteer (2004). In 9 years I have been an outreach specialist, volunteer coordinator, biologist and principal investigator on wildlife research, and in 2006 I started SIA’s work in northern Mexico, creating alliances with landowners and introducing wildlife research in private lands, outreach and education to community groups and schools, and now implementing scientific research, habitat restoration and private land conservation.
How did you get interested in studying big cats?
This was a personal dream from a very young age. I used to dream I owned an African lion and grew up always interested in wildlife, especially predators and, within these, wild felines. In 2003 I took an opportunity to study jaguars in northern Mexico with a resulting experience that changed my life.
What is your favorite Sky Island species?
It’s difficult to choose one species, since I see the Sky Island ecosystems as a whole system, and not individual species.
However, I have a preference for cats and in this region there are four species: jaguars, mountain lions, bobcats and ocelots. I also like other tropical species that inhabit the region, such as coati, ringtail and pecari (javelina); including birds like Elegant Trogon, hummingbirds, gray and black hawks and other birds. Additionally I have a fascination on the reptile communities of the region, especially the diversity in numbers and adaptations of rattlesnakes – another highly evolved type of predator group.