El Refugio De Potosí – A Center for Wildlife Conservation and Environmental Education


13 July 2013

A Project of Biotropicos A.C.
An update of our accomplishments and activities during the past year.

Mission: Conservation of the flora and fauna of the coastal tropical dry forest region near Zihuatanejo, Jose Azueta, Guerrero, Mexico.

Goals: To increase the awareness and appreciation of the life cycle of the tropical dry forest and  native species in the region of Barra de Potosí, Guerrero, Mexico, through preservation, exhibition, reproduction, education and research.


Provide habitat for promotion and protection of local species.

Exhibit the flora and fauna to promote conservation.

Provide and distribute information about the life cycle and biodiversity of local species.

Promote ecological tourism in this region.

Create opportunity for community involvement and economic development.

Establish learning opportunities for students from preschool to university.

Conduct scientific research for the protection of local species.

Provide rescue, treatment, recuperation, and release of wild animals needing sanctuary.

In this region so rich in biodiversity and habitat arrays, there is a dearth of educational opportunities, formal or informal, in the arena of basic life sciences. Though the national curricula include life sciences, the majority of teachers are not prepared to offer the subject and laboratory facilities in the schools are minimal to nonexistent. There are no Natural History Museums, no Science Institutes, Interpretative Centers, no Exploratorium’s for kids and their families to explore. Most have never looked through a microscope, seen a skeleton, handled a snake, touched a tarantula, viewed the wildlife, learned photosynthesis, explored the chain of life, or received information about the environment nor conservation. It is unreasonable to expect people to protect and care for the physical world that they know little about. The longer we are in operation, the further we are reaching to try to provide these very basic experiences especially for school age children. What we have discovered is that adults also are fascinated to explore the life sciences when given an opportunity. Surprisingly for many, their very first opportunity is a visit to El Refugio.

Guests to date: (30 June 2013)
28,575 Visitors since our opening in July 2009
33% have been students (Preschool to University)

We acknowledge a significant drop in visitors and students this year though the trend has been steadily downward overall.  The region in general has experienced the same fall these past years.  Both security matters and worldwide changes in economic buoyancy have had notable impacts on national and international tourism.  We are struggling to find a route to greater sustainability. 

Financial Summary
July 2012 through June 2013
(Note: Amounts are in Mexican Pesos)

Income:                                    1,291,454 *
Expenses:                                1,066,747 **
Loan /Debt reduction:                 400,000 ***
Deficit:                                       -175,293

*Income: Entrance donations, Whale Bone Patronage, Animal Adoption, On Site Donations, Store Sales, PayPal Donations, Donations to PDSCF, Rental Income.
**Expenses: Majority of Expenses Related to Employees, Animals-Care and Feeding, Repairs and Maintenance.
*** Debt Reduction:  Payoff of short term and partial long term loans to Laurel Patrick

Activities and Projects:

From July 2012 to June 2013, we received 41 schools (the same number as the previous year) for education programs that included hands on workshops, interactive lectures, trivia competitions and explorations of conservation themed messages, guided tours and “animal encounters”.  Additionally, the students make a “pledge with nature” and sign a contract that they take back to the school classroom. Ages of students range from preschool through University.

During the year (July 1, 2012- June 30, 2013) we received 4707 visitors.  We continue to give guided tours in English and Spanish to our visitors discussing the wildlife of the region. We were voted the by Trip Advisor as the number one recommended activity for visitors to the region.

Christmas Bird Count: El Refugio de Potosi hosted the second annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count in the region. The 35 participants counted 8699 individual birds and 141 bird species. This Citizen Science activity will be continued annually on Dec 15th. 

We continue to receive, treat and liberate wild animals of the region. We are the only facility in the State to provide these services. The objective is to release animals as they are ready to be returned to the wild. In the case of animals that cannot be re-released they are absorbed into El Refugio and become ambassadors of their species. Animals that cannot be helped are euthanized.  Currently we house as species ambassadors a wide range of regional animals.  An array of snakes (6 species), young crocodile, 3 tree porcupines, a Kinkajou, Heloderma (venomous Mexican beaded lizard), 4 raptors, 3 Military Macaws, 20 parrots (4 species), 2 coatimundis, armadillo, innumerable iguanas, fresh water turtles. Habitats are constantly being created or repaired to manage and house the various visitor and resident animals.

Conservation Week: Participated with the Municipality of Zihuatanejo / Ixtapa and the Dept. of Ecology for three days of workshops and events related to sea turtle conservation for school age children. Activities included: a turtle maze, build the turtle models, and a huge world map that demonstrated the region’s unique status in regards to nesting sea turtles.

In Progress: Scheduled to open 2 Sept 2013 is our “NOM -059 Photo Gallery”. During this expo we will be closed to the public to allow us to visit schools.

This project is a traveling photo exposition displaying the flora and fauna of the coast of Guerrero included on the NOM-059. To quantify the impact of the gallery, visitors will complete a simple questionnaire before and after viewing the photos. Data will be collected, analyzed and evaluated to determine the effectiveness of this approach for increasing public interest, awareness and changing behaviors.

See attached for the details of the expo.

Developed and presented two workshops on the NOM-059 for law students. This is the legal framework in Mexico for the protection of wild animals. The document additionally lists the animals listed as under special protection, at risk, endangered or extinct.  Our role was to familiarize the students with the major concepts and discuss the gaps in the process of the inventory and basic studies of regional wild life.

In Progress: Development and installation on our website of a photo gallery of animals and plants of the region that are included on the NOM-059. Information on the website will include scientific and common names, abundance, habitats, and food source and conservation status. The information is down loadable and can be used as supplemental education and reference guides for students, tour guides, visitors or anyone with interest in the topic. The photos can be enlarged and are downloaded.  The purpose of this work is to increase the knowledge of the species of our region. www.elrefugiodepotosi.org 

A variety of substantial repair and maintenance projects were completed.  We are pleased to note that the State Government of Guerrero, SEMAREN, aided us financially with some of the work. The climate has a significant and negative impact on all our hardscape, buildings, cages, decks, facilities and the public certainly adds their mark. Repairs and maintenance seem to be a constant of life in the tropics.

Our Sperm Whale restoration project continues. What a project this has turned out to be! Restoration and assembly is a massive and heavy puzzle.  In life, this male measured 18 meters (60 feet); weight unknown...but not a light weight!  The skeleton will be placed atop 6 steel ‘Y’s.  Massive footings have been installed to carry the weight and tolerate earthquakes. Two creative and eager employees are working mostly full time to complete the bone assembly and final skeleton placement.  At the moment, they are designing false cartilage from transparent plastic hoses, fiber glass and resin to attach hyoids, ribs, flipper bones and the like.  While many museums have such skeletons, most are housed indoors with climate control and assembled by experienced ‘experts’. There is little experience in housing a skeleton like this out doors; we are pioneers in the arena. We have created a new large viewing area for visitors to experience the whale. We are projecting completion of the whale project by the end of November.

While sustainability and survivability is an ongoing issue, we are working to shift the focus of El Refugio. One direction includes captive breeding of threatened and endangered local species for release into the wild.  Our interest lies specifically with the parrot family.  In the past year, Laurel attended a basic course on this subject at Xcaret (the known leader in captive breeding of macaws). Additionally, feedback from informal discussion with national universities shows us that there is need for a regional research station and facilities to house students, professors, researchers, volunteers and interns for conservation projects. Mexico’s universities are short on options for field work and want more hands on experiences for conservation education, biology, forestry and marine sciences. This is a long term goal and will require creative perseverance on our part. Pablo Mendizabal is leading this charge for elaboration and evolution of El Refugio. We are having dormitory facilities designed and searching for opportunities for funding.

Laurel Patrick
El Refugio de Potosi
July 2013

Our Mission
Our MissionConservation of the flora and fauna of the coastal, tropical dry forest region near Zihuatanejo, Jose Azueta, Guerrero, Mexico.

Increase the awareness and appreciation of the life cycle of the tropical dry forest and of native species in the region of Barra de Potosí, Guerrero, Mexico, through preservation, exhibition, reproduction, education and research.








Palm Desert Sister Cities Foundation