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Early on in the program, Juan and Catalina did not have any permanent staff supporting them.  They endured periods of 8 to 9 months on their own in the Sierra, doing all the work on their own. In 2002, they started living in small tents. The turnover of the field staff was short, lasting a few months to a year, if Juan and Catalina were fortunate; until in 2008 a biologist named Mohamed Saad Luna became part of the staff whose contributions to the project lasted 12 years. From then onward, a great number of young multidisciplinary professional biologists from different universities and institutions have joined the team, whether on the field or doing research—or any other sort of work that needs to be carried out. It was not until 2010 that the team moved to a field station. It had taken years to build it. In order to survive all year round in the Sierra San Pedro Martyr the team has to be diligent keeping the station going strong and giving maintenance to the pens.


This diverse group of men and women executes a wide range of different jobs in their quest to protect the endangered California condor: from the daily monitoring of the species, to feeding the  birds a healthy meat diet clean of herbicides and pesticides, all the way to the strenuous work of  removing fallen trees from the roads, helping fire fighters creating firewalls to stop wildfires, harvesting enough rainwater for domestic use, removing snow collected around the house and the biological station, and, most importantly, cooking the hearty day-to-day meals for the rest of the team!


The following stories bear witness to the passion and hard work of Juan and Catalina’s team:         

Mohamed Mahmoud Saad Luna

Mohamed Mahmoud Saad Luna worked with Juan and Catalina for 12 years. Nothing could beat his passion for the Baja condors. One winter, Juan left Mohamed in charge of the station making cautionary emphasis on the fact that he should not use the quad runner, a Grizzly Yamaha, because the snow was too deep and slippery. Even so, Mohamed was so worried that the condors didn’t have enough food that he ignored Juan’s request and drove the quad runner to feed the condors. On his way there, the vehicle flipped and rolled over him, almost killing him. Mohamed had tried to make sure that the condors were surviving the cold winter. This might be a testimony of how very courageous he was. If it is not, suffice it to recall another occasion in which Juan left him in the aviary, knowing there was a mountain lion around. When Mohammed found the feline at close range, he didn’t back up. Instead, he took a picture of the puma with his cell phone.

Manuel Valdez

Manuel or Manolo, as many people know him, is a long-serving conservation biologist with many battles on his back. He was the field biologist in charge of the introduction of the pronghorn and bighorn sheep into the state of Coahuila, two species that were once were extirpated form the region. He is an expert on Mexican squirrels, prairie dogs and a very good observer of the condor behavior. In the past, he worked over a year for the Mexican condor project, and now he is back!

Hiram Licona

Graduated as an engineer in natural resources from Chapingo University. He is a young member of the team on the lookout for his path. As a hard-working man, the experience and training he gains at the Sierra will transform and enrich his emerging career as a conservationist, as he works alongside this fascinating endangered species, getting firsthand experience on all the practical issues to be solved, which are not necessarily related to the field of biology. Participating in such a unique project is an invaluable opportunity for a young man that wants to protect nature.

Jaqueline Delgado

Is an engineer in natural resources, with a keen eye for bird behavior. She knows the secret life of each condor in Baja California. Jacqueline’s sensibleness and great charm are both invaluable assets when it comes to solving many of the day-to-day challenges at San Pedro Martyr.

Alejandra Argüelles 

Is a biologist and the newest member of our team. At times, both Alejandra and Jacqueline work together, collecting daily data about condor locations and behavior, gathering pellets and analyzing the possible contents of trash and other possible pollutants. They both help with the required records for the reports that Catalina needs sends out to grants, donors and government institutions, both sides of the border.

Ares and Argos

These two sibling Belgian Shepherds are vital members of the team! Juan has trained Ares and Argos for a number of different purposes: they are faithful guardians in this remote region of the Baja peninsula, and when Juan tells them they chase those condors in the aviary who are oblivious to predators outside the facility and stay on the ground. The dogs make the birds roost higher, in the topmost tree branches. This better prepares the condors for life in the wild. Ares is the more dominant of the two. When they were much younger, they had their first encounter with a mountain lion, a large male. They immediately chased him down. Juan lost track of the dogs for three days. When they came back home, they were thirsty and full of jumping chollas, a cacti with small thorny balls that is only found 2,500 meters below the facilities, in the desert. Ares and Argos have never chased a puma since then.

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