Sima de las Cotorras
|Sima de las Cotorras|
|Sinkhole of Parrots|
|Location||Ocozocoautla, Chiapas, Mexico|
|Depth||140 metres (460 ft)|
Ancient rock paintings
Sima de las Cotorras, Spanish for Sinkhole of Parrots, is a giant circular sinkhole in the karst plateau of the Mexican state of Chiapas. It measures 160 metres (520 ft) in diameter and 140 metres (460 ft) in depth, and is noted for the thousands of green parakeets inhabiting the trees at its bottom and the ancient paintings on its cliff wall 70 metres (230 ft) underground.
Sima de las Cotorras is in the municipality of Ocozocoautla in Chiapas, in an area inhabited by the indigenous Zoque people, and is surrounded by El Ocote Biosphere Reserve. It is about a 90-minute drive west of the state capital Tuxtla Gutiérrez.
Flora and fauna
Sima de las Cotorras is best known for its namesake green parakeets (Aratinga holochlora), thousands of which inhabit the trees at the bottom of the sinkhole. They are attracted to the sinkhole by the absence of many predators. The parakeets create a spectacle in the early morning around 5:30–6 am when they leave the hole en masse, flying in spirals while their cacophonous squawks reverberate throughout the sinkhole. They return to the hole at dusk around 4–5 pm. The parrots are the most numerous between March and October, while many of them spend the dry winter season in the warmer lowlands near the coast.
While the parrots are the most prominent creatures of Sima de las Cotorras, the sinkhole also provides a habitat for 80 other species of birds such as orioles, hummingbirds, honeycreepers, thrushes, woodpeckers, and vultures, as well as many species of mammals and reptiles including anteaters, coyotes, opossum, iguanas, and several species of snakes.
The sinkhole is surrounded by a forest of deciduous trees and shrubs that grow to a maximum height of 20 metres (66 ft). A small forest also grows at the bottom of the sinkhole, providing a protected nesting area for the parrots and other birds. The tree species include chicle, pitaya, cascarilla, and many others. They shed their leaves in the winter dry season.
Ancient rock paintings
Halfway down the sinkhole there are 46 ancient images painted on the rocky cliff. They are believed to have been painted between 5,000 and 10,000 years ago by the predecessors of the indigenous Zoque people. How and why they descended 70 metres (230 ft) of sheer cliff to paint the figures on the sinkhole wall are still unknown.
There is a trail around Sima de las Cotorras with several viewpoints, and a restaurant on the edge of the sinkhole. A cluster of stone cabins in the forest nearby provides lodging for overnight visitors.