Cancun-based NGO Amigos de Sian Ka’an, A.C. celebrated its 30th anniversary earlier this year, three decades of tireless work and campaigning for the protection of the Mexican Caribbean’s rich ecosystems.

Amigos de Sian Ka’an was founded in 1986, six months after the creation of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, and is a conservation pioneer in Quintana Roo. From research and conservation projects in Sian Ka’an when it first began, over 30 years its work has gone far beyond the borders of the reserve. It has planned and lobbied for the creation of several other reserves in the state, including Uaymil, Contoy, Arrecifes de Sian Ka’an, Arrecifes de Xcalak, Chinchankanaab, Balan Ka’ax and Cozumel, among others. In fact, as a result of the direct actions of Amigos de Sian Ka’an, 1.1 million hectares of land has been protected to date and there are more areas proposed for future reserve status.

Amigos de Sian Ka’an projects also include:

  • Mapping the area’s cenotes and underground rivers, working on a water management plan for the Yucatán Peninsula’s hydrological resources
  • Monitoring the health of coral reefs
  • Monitoring crocodile and bird populations and other endangered species
  • Coastal management plans
  • Scientific research
  • Sustainable development in Mayan communities
  • Maya K’ab community fair trade network
  • Maya Ka’an community tourism network to bring travelers to rural villages in Sian Ka’an and the Zona Maya
  • MARTI Mesoamerican Reef Tourism Initiative
  • Environmental services payments to landowners to keep jungle and water sources intact to protect them for posterity, conserve wildlife and offset climate change
  • Working with area biologists, landowners and government agencies to create wildlife corridors linking reserves to protect endangered species such as the jaguar and puma
  • Environmental education

The Amigos conservation team comprises biologists, development workers and volunteers and its projects range from wildlife research and an environmental services payment program for protecting the jungle to water studies and sustainable development. Whether it’s monitoring the health of the Mesoamerican Reef and marine life to safeguarding the jungle and the creatures that dwell in it, mapping the network of underground river systems in the Riviera Maya and community products and tourism in Mayan villages, Amigos de Sian Ka’an is involved in protecting the unique, fragile and incredibly rich mosaic of ecosystems with which the state of Quintana Roo is blessed.

A longtime supporter of Amigos de Sian Ka’an, the Royal Resorts Foundation has partnered with it to protect areas of tropical forest in areas of northern Quintana Roo under threat from development. By saving the forest, wildlife and the aquifers that supply water to Cancun, Isla Mujeres and the Riviera Maya are also protected. The goal is to expand the amount of jungle protected under this program and work towards the creation of a biological corridor linking El Eden Reserve and Yum Balam Reserve in the north of Quintana Roo with Sian Ka’an that will provide a refuge for endangered species such as the jaguar, puma and ocelot and protect the underground rivers of the Riviera Maya.