Project Partner

Programme for Belize


Rio Bravo shapefile map
Project Summary

The Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area (Rio Bravo), which is owned and managed by Programme for Belize, is Belize’s most biologically diverse protected area and covers 101,000 hectares (250,000 acres), around four per cent of the country’s total land area.

Rio Bravo links the Maya Biosphere Reserve (Peten, Guatemala) and the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve (Campeche, Mexico), forming the largest protected area complex in Central America. It shelters a rich diversity of wildlife and has been assessed as the most important single protected area in the country.

The presence of ancient Mayan ruins provide an equally rich archaeological heritage. This project focuses on funding rangers to ensure the continued protection of this important region.



Tropical & Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests


Petén-Veracruz moist forests


The entire area forms part of the Yucatan Platform and is underlain by massive beds of limestone. The three major ecosystems are Broadleaf Forests; Pine savannah; and wetlands, lagoons and areas of mangrove

Method for Land Protection

Reserve Management and protection by rangers



Rio Bravo is highly biodiverse due to its location and it contains a mix of species from both the Peten and drier Yucatan forests. It is home to over 350 species of birds, including Yucatan endemics such as the Ocellated Turkey and many migratory species, such as the Yellow-winged Warbler. Bird species of conservation importance include the Endangered Yellow-Headed Parrot and Black Rail, and the reintroduced Harpy Eagle.

The reserve is home to 70 species of mammal including, the Yucatan Black Howler Monkey, Geoffroy’s Spider monkey, Jaguar, Baird’s Tapir and American Manatee.

Flora is well studied on the reserve with over 700 species recorded and 200 tree species, including the globally endangered tree species Quiina schippi and Vitex gaumeri.

The waterways of Rio Bravo also provide habitat for the Critically Endangered Central American River Turtle.


Global Prioritisation

Rio Bravo is Belize’s most biologically diverse protected area and connects internationally to the Maya Biosphere Reserve (Peten, Guatemala) and the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve (Campeche, Mexico), forming the largest protected area complex in Central America. It forms part of the Rio Bravo CMA Gallon Jug Estate Important Bird Area (IBA) and lies within the Mesoamerican Biodiversity Hotspot.

Programme fro Belize rangers at the Hill Bank Field Station ©Dan Bradbury/WLT

Main Threats to the Area

Within Belize a major threat to forests and wildlife is the unsustainable practice of conventional logging and forest clearance for large-scale agriculture. These threats cannot take place within Rio Bravo, but fires started by both illegal hunters and poor fire management on neighbouring cattle ranches pose large threats to the reserve.

Rangers, who are often first respondents to fire are key to ensuring as little damage as possible to Rio Bravo in the event of fire.

Local communities

Programme for Belize works on community and education outreach in the villages surrounding the Rio Bravo and throughout the country.

Although there are no human settlements located within Rio Bravo, Programme for Belize have established several cultural groups and provide employment through tourism, horticulture, and forestryTheir ecotourism programme employs local people in roles such as bird guides and lodge staff.

Programme for Belize have also worked to get environmental science into the curricula for elementary schools and visit schools to conduct environmental education sessions, as well as hosting classes on site.  


Rio Bravo - More Information