The Chelemhá Reserve is located in the Atlantic slope highlands of Guatemala, in the south of the province Alta Verapaz. The reserve ranges in altitude from 1900 to 2532 m (6230 - 8310 ft) and comprises about 500 ha of primary cloud forest.
Chelemhá is part of a network of several private nature reserves, which together protect the entire ridge of the Yalijux mountain, which is covered with cloud forest. Cloud forests are evergreen broadleaf forests and grow in Guatemala in altitudes over 1200 m, under very humid conditions. Therefore, they are naturally isolated from each other. Slash-and-burn agriculture has amplified the fragmentation throughout Central America. Farmers in Maya Q'eqchi' villages adjacent to Chelemhá Reserve grow mainly corn and beans.
Chelemhá is an important part of the cloud forest corridor in central Guatemala. The conservation of this compound is essential for the survival of the unique flora and fauna of these forests. For example, Paiz (1996) evidenced migrations of Quetzals from the Sierra de las Minas mountain range, the largest continuous cloud forest area in Guatemala, to the Yalijux mountain range.
Chelemhá is part of the Yalijux Important Bird Area (IBA GT010) and supports populations of four resident globally threatened and 16 range-restricted bird species.
The importance of the Chelemhá reserve:
- Conservation of one of the most endangered habitats on earth.
- Home to many species endemic to the Central American highlands.
- Refuge of globally endangered species, such as Guatemalan Howler Monkey (Alouatta pigra, Endangered), Highland Guan (Penelopina nigra), Pink-headed Warbler (Cardellina versicolor), Bearded Screech-Owl (Megascops barbarus), all Vulnerable.
- Important element for the conservation of world wide biodiversity, including genetic diversity.
- Important part of the cloud forest corridor in central Guatemala.
- Part of the national and Mesoamerican system of biological corridors.
- Important watershed to provide drinking water to many indigenous communities.
- Conservation of part of the watershed of the Polochic river, one of the main rivers in Guatemala.
The private nature reserve - Reserva Natural Privada Chelemhá - is managed by the conservationist organization Unión para Proteger el Bosque Nuboso (UPROBON) - Union for protecting the cloud forest.