Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Programme for Belize

Keel Billed Toucan © David Tomlinson

This is a completed project.
Belize is a tiny country squeezed between the Caribbean Sea, Mexico and Guatemala. It covers an area of only 8800 square miles, about the size of Wales. Find out how the WLT protected acres of this paradise for wildlife...

Project aim

The challenge of Programme for Belize was how to link development and conservation in ways that advanced the objectives of both, while building the economy and helping Belizeans achieve a better standard of living. The project also aimed to develop sustainable income streams that would ensure the long term protection of the reserve.

Partner:

Programme for Belize »

How WLT is helping

An imaginative programme was developed, based on purchasing 110,000 acres of forest, which has since been added to, including 42,000 acres of land donated by Coca-Cola Foods. In total the programme now owns 252,000 acres. Highly significant is the fact that much of the adjacent lands have been cleared of forest for farming.

The WLT has also extended its support to Belize Audubon Society - the country's foremost membership organisation helping wildlife, as well as other conservation initiatives.

Funding needed

This is a completed project. The programme raised over $2-million for land purchase and research into sustainable forestry. By 1996 all the loans had been paid off and the WLT had established Friends of Belize to encourage supporters to make a further commitment to helping the long-term conservation of Belize's wildlife and natural resources. Although WLT is not fundraising for this project If you wish to support Programme for Belize:

Donate to the Action Fund »

  • Specify "Programme for Belize" in the comments box to earmark your donation for Belize.
Blue Morpho Butterfly
A Morpho Butterfly, the Morpho genus contains over 80 species of butterfly. Photo © David Tomlinson.

Biodiversity

The Rio Bravo is a biodiverse area consisting of broadleaf forest, palm savannah and freshwater lagoons and rivers.

Birds:

390 species including Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja). The Rio Bravo was chosen as a release site for the species' recovery.

Mammals:

70 species including Jaguar (Panthera onca), Puma (Puma concolor), Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), Margay (Leopardus wiedii), Black Howler Monkey (Alouatta pigra) and Geffroy's Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi)

Plants:

200 tree species

Archaeology:

Belize was once populated by the Maya Indians and their legacy is a wealth of temples and edifices, now hidden in the forest.

Learn more about animals in our reserves »

Threats to Belize's forests

Tropical forests cover only a small proportion of the earth's surface yet are home to over 60 per cent of the world's plant and animal species. Not only are we losing species of animals and plants at a rate 10,000 times greater than normal, we are also denying ourselves the potential benefits such diversity and abundance can bring.

Management Plans for the area outlaw such things as hunting, clear felling and the introduction of non-native species. Particular threats in the Rio Bravo include:

  • Hunting
  • Illegal logging
  • Forest and Savannah fires
La Milpa Field
The La Milpa Field Station, one of two stations in the Rio Bravo.

The reserve

Rio Bravo Conservation Management Area

Buffer zones around the reserve area have been established. in these zones, experimental and carefully controlled sustainable logging has been conducted and funded by the European Union, through a grant negotiated by the WLT on behalf of PFB.

An education programme for local and national communities is actively pursued emphasising how the country and the individual can benefit, not just in the short-term, but over a period of centuries, seeing economic growth and at the same time keeping a firm grasp on natural heritage.

Scientific expeditions have explored the darkest recesses of the forest and archaeological expeditions have inspected the Maya edifices, hidden deep in the forest and carefully monitored and controlled eco-tourism is encouraged.

See a map of the reserve »

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