“Perhaps the force of the great surf which beats on this shore has much to do with the tenacity of the animals here. It is noteworthy that the animals, rather than deserting such beaten shores for the safe cove and protected pools, simply increase their toughness and fight back at the sea with a kind of joyful survival” (John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez).
As Steinbeck pointed out during his travels, the animals of Baja California—on land or in water—are ferocious with life and rich with it. The harsh inland landscape is oddly complemented by the deep blue waters that provide sanctuary for marine life. It’s a brilliant contrast that gives Baja it’s dimension and makes its various fauna that much more intriguing.
Inland, the animals of Baja have been relatively protected for ages. Due to the peninsula’s relative isolation for most of its history, the Baja California desert region enjoys being one of Mexico’s best preserved desert regions with high levels of biodiversity and endemism. With its difficult ecology and inhospitable environments, its animals have adapted to Baja’s unique environment with success. Off shore, the Sea of Cortez is so rich with life that Jacques Cousteau called it the “Aquarium of the World.” Baja’s warm waters are nesting grounds and birthing grounds for some of the ocean’s most interesting creatures. Baja California brings back the wilderness to nature, and it is easy to explore your inner wildness beyond Cabo San Lucas’ polished playground.
Human Impact on Habitats
The principle ecological threats to the animals of Baja California are livestock ranching, over-hunting, and salt extraction. Baja’s mule deer and bighorn sheep have both been effectively repositioned from their natural habitats on the peninsula due to cattle ranching. Similarly, puma populations have been significantly reduced due to over-hunting. In terms of marine life, whales—gray whales in particular—suffer from the environmental effects of salt extraction. Similarly, sea turtles and whales such as the vaquita suffer from the effects of bycatching, commercialization, and being over-hunted as a food source. Although only 7% of the Sea Cortez is currently protected, conservation efforts to protect the natural habitats of its’ animals as well as the animals themselves from these threats are in force.