Sarie Van Belle, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Department of Anthropology
University of Texas at Austin
Palenque National Park, Chiapas, Mexico
Palenque National Park encompasses 1,771 ha of which 1000 ha is primary and secondary tall evergreen tropical rainforest. The terrain at the site is rugged and elevation ranges between 150 and 500 m above sea level. There are approximately 20 black howler groups with an average group size of 7 individuals.
I have been working in Palenque National Park since 2005. This park is located in the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico, and harbors the ruins of the Mayan civilization of Palenque. The Mayan city flourished in the 7th century and was abandoned around 800 AD after which the tropical rainforest absorbed the buildings.
Palenque National Park was established in 1981 and was recognized as World Heritage by UNESCO in 1987 in order to protect the Mayan ruins. Only 10% of the entire city has been explored; the rest remains covered by tropical rainforest. Due to the high interest by the Mexican government to preserve the cultural values of this site, fauna and flora living in the forest that overgrew the buildings receive equal level of protection.