Helping people and wildlife of the dry forest!

A juvenile Guatemalan Beaded Lizard in its natural habitat on the Heloderma Natural Reserve.

The Guatemalan Beaded Lizard and Local Guatemalans that live in the dry forest of Motagua Valley are in Risk!

Who We Are:  The 58 hectare Heloderma Natural Reserve (HNR) was established in 2007  to conserve the critically endangered Guatemalan Beaded Lizard (one of the most endangered lizards in the world) and the rapidly declining tropical dry forest habitat it shares with other threatened species.  Tropical dry forests are the most imperiled forest type in Latin America.  Only ~2% of intact tropical dry forest remains as land continues to be cleared for agriculture and other purposes.  This forest is home to many unique species of plants and animals that are found only in this dry forest habitat.  

Our Achievements to Date:

-Our conservation efforts, with the help of local communities, have increased the local population of the endangered Guatemalan Beaded Lizard from ~200 individuals in 2004 to ~500 individuals in 2020.

-Restored approximately ~250 ha of degraded habitat surrounding HNR by replanting of tropical dry forest tree species.

-Public education program reaches between 500-600 children every year in regional elementary schools.

-Help sustain the local economy by employing local villagers as forest guards, cooks and guides on HNR.

-Aided in the international conservation of endangered species in listing of the Guatemalan Beaded Lizard on CITES Appendix I in 2007 and the Motagua Spiny-tailed Iguana on CITES appendix II in 2010.

Where Are We? HNR is located in southeastern Guatemala near the city of Cabañas, in the Motagua River valley.

Why We Need Help?
The 2020 Covid-19 pandemic forced the closure of HNR for almost a year resulting in the loss of annual revenues normally generated through donations by visitors and lodging fees.  This problem was compounded when hurricanes Eta and Iota severely damaged infrastructure at HNR in November 2020.  

Loss of annual revenues and storm damage repair costs have depleted HNR’s financial reserves.

Funding is needed at this time to maintain basic HNR operations and programs, essential for its continued mission of Guatemalan Beaded Lizard and tropical dry forest conservation and public education.  

Having HNR programs and facilities fully operational again will help us achieve our conservation goals! 

How Donations Help:

1)  Sustain conservation of tropical dry forest and its unique local wildlife such as the Guatemalan Beaded Lizard and Motagua Spiny-tailed Iguana.  Several other species of amphibians and reptiles that occur only in the Motagua Valley region are also found on HNR.  Over 140 species of birds, including the endemic Guatemalan Russet-crowned Motmot inhabit HNR.  Conserving tropical dry forest not only saves the loss of many unique species, but also provides a livelihood for local communities and reduces the effects of extreme flooding due to climate change.

Bird list:

A sample of the wildlife found on HNR.  These and many more species must have intact tropical dry forest habitat to survive. Photos by Jiichiro Yoshimoto (butterfly), Pablo Chumil (motmot) and the others are by Daniel Ariano.

2)  Provide free environmental and conservation public education programs to local schools and other interested groups.  HNR public education programs reach ~600+ school children every year.  We also develop and produce educational materials such as our wildlife coloring books for distribution to school children.  Our education programs have had a significant impact in saving Guatemalan Beaded Lizards by reducing the number killed by local people in the mistaken folklore-based belief that they are dangerous.

Local school children proudly displaying their free tropical dry forest wildlife conservation coloring books!

3)  Support of local village economies by providing employment opportunities for forest guards, cooks, maintenance workers, and tour guides on HNR.  This creates a positive attitude towards, and increases stakeholder support of, our conservation projects in the local communities, while generating much needed local economic inputs due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and hurricanes Eta and Iota.

Employment opportunities at HNR helps support the local economy.  These ladies are cooks who prepare food for ecotourists and researchers who stay at the HNR research station.

4)  Collaboration with local villagers in the “food basket for lizards” incentive program through education and participation.  This wildlife rescue/ conservation project has reduced the killing of Guatemalan Beaded Lizards through the “food basket for lizards” incentive campaign.  This campaign encourages local villagers to bring unharmed Beaded Lizards to HNR.  The lizards are temporarily held to enhance breeding success then released on the reserve after mating.  Each participant receives a “food basket” containing essential foods such as rice, beans, cooking oil, etc. for each lizard brought to HNR.  This conservation effort reaches ~50 families every year, and was especially helpful to supplement food needs of local villagers due to the impacts of Covid-19 and hurricanes Eta and Iota in 2020.

The 2020 recipients of our "Food Baskets for Lizards" campaign.  This program ensures that each participant receives a gift of food staples such as rice, beans, etc. for each Guatemalan Beaded Lizard they brought to HNR from the surrounding area.

When Do We Need Your Help?

Now! Your contribution will have a direct positive effect on helping people while conserving endangered wildlife!  

Maintaining intact tropical dry forest will help support local economies; conserve declining and endangered native plant and animal populations; and help reduce the catastrophic effects of increasingly intense hurricanes that produce disastrous flood events that cause more human suffering.

Thank you for your generous donation and trust in this long-term ongoing conservation project!

Before the COVID pandemic some local school children learn about and make friends with a Guatemalan Beaded Lizard.   By teaching children about this endangered lizard we are changing the former public attitude from wanting to kill them, to working with HNR to save them!

  • Anonymous 
    • $20 
    • 7 mos
  • Graham andrew Battison 
    • $100 
    • 8 mos
  • Noah Carl 
    • $25 
    • 8 mos
  • Julian Lewis 
    • $10 
    • 8 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $27 
    • 8 mos
See all

Fundraising team: Heloderma team (4)

Daniel Ariano 
Raised $577 from 9 donations
Malvern, AR
Kelly Irwin 
Rowland Griffin 
Team member