Mexico’s coastal Veracruz attracts foreign birdwatchers to escape the winter | Travel

Every year, millions of birds glide on air currents between Mexico’s Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains and the Gulf of Mexico in a spectacle called the “river of raptors” that draws hundreds of foreign observers to the coast of Veracruz.

Different species of hawks, hawks, kites, vultures and vultures flock over the mountains or near the ocean from August to November to escape the onset of the boreal winter.

“Many of my clients have been to other famous bird migration sites, but they say they’ve never seen anything like the Rio de Rapaces in Veracruz,” said Steven Koevoet, a birding guide in Mexico who over 25 years leading tours in Yucatan and Veracruz. states.

Despite hopes that the annual event could spark an ecotourism boom similar to what Latin American counterparts Costa Rica and Ecuador have seen, it has failed to materialize in part because of what critics say is Mexico’s failure to diversify tourism away from resorts its lively destinations such as Cancun and Cabo San. Lucas.

“Mexico has a lot of potential because of its endemic species, its great diversity. But it lacks tourist infrastructure,” said Efrain Castellanos, a conservation biologist from the state of Chiapas.

High levels of violence and environmentally unfriendly practices are also key deterrents to the development of ecotourism in the states of Chiapas, Tamaulipas, Guerrero and Veracruz, which are home to rich natural diversity.

The spiraling violence has stopped birdwatching for years in some places, where the activity was an important source of income for local communities, said Vicente Rodriguez, a bird conservation specialist at Mexico’s National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO). .

Mexico’s national and state tourism ministries did not respond to requests for comment.

But now, a loose coalition of environmental groups, universities and farmers in Veracruz are working together to develop ecotourism around the annual bird migration.

Angel Viveros, scion of a farming family near Jose Cardel, a town about 10 kilometers (6 miles) inland from the Gulf of Mexico coast in Veracruz, has repurposed 150 hectares of his family’s land for bird watching, horseback riding, skydiving and hiking. .

Viveros, supported by the non-profit group Pronatura Veracruz, which monitors and counts the birds in their annual migration, now receives hundreds of visitors annually.

Other local initiatives, such as coffee producers Cafe de Mi Rancho, Rancho San Fermin and Cafetalera San Felipe, were on board with coffee tastings and educational talks about the vital role birds play in seed dispersal.

“A green, bird-friendly stamp for these producers could be the next step,” said Juan Salazar, a professor at the University of Cordoba in Veracruz.

Although progress is slow, efforts to build an industry around migratory birds are a worthy cause, enthusiasts say.

“Apart from feeling the physical emotion, it’s like something spiritual… there are no words to describe how it feels to see the river of birds,” said Jose Alejandro Ramirez, a 79-year-old retired Mexican who been visiting Veracruz since 2002.

This story was published from a television agency feed with no text changes. Only the title has been changed.

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