The Mexican wolf was hunted to the brink of extinction. But as it is reintroduced, conservationists hope to quell the old enmity between 'el lobo' and the farmer.
The Mexican wolf once roamed from southwest Arizona through western Texas, southern New Mexico and down into Mexico. The smallest of the Americas' five wolf species, farmers and ranchers nonetheless saw it as a threat, and hunted it to the brink of extinction.
Since 2011, there have been efforts to reverse its decline, with dozens of wolves reintroduced to the wilds of Mexico. Today, the United States and Mexico are working together to protect Mexican wildlife — and that means continuing to support the return of this important predator.
Mexican wolves help balance the entire ecosystem. They keep populations of both its prey and competitors — like pumas and coyotes — in check. And the remains of the animals they feed on in turn nourish scavengers, microorganisms and plants.
But the old enmity between "el lobo'' and the farmer hasn't gone away — particularly as wolves circle villages, venturing within a kilometer (0.6 miles) of human homes. Which is why the initiative is working to educate people about the benefits their canine neighbors bring, and encourage cattle breeders in particular to welcome them back.
Project goal: Establish resilient, genetically diverse Mexican wolf populations within their original range.
Project scope: Since the initiative began, 46 wolves have been released in Mexico, with 35 animals currently living in the wild. Their numbers are expected rise in the coming years.
Project partners: United Nations Development Program Mexico, the Mexican National Commission of Protected Natural Areas (CONANP), the Mexican Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), The Autonomous University of Querétaro, Itzeni AC.
Project duration: The first wolves were released in the US in 1998 and on the Mexican side of the border in 2011. The initiative is expected to run until the wolves have established stable breeding populations.
A film by Anna Marie Goretzki and Pablo García Saldaña