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Part of the Mesoamerica Biodiversity Hotspot, Belize is located on the Caribbean coast in the north of Central America, at the convergence of the Northern America and Southern America biogeographical realms.

Despite being the second-smallest country in Central America at only 8,867 square miles, Belize has a remarkable diversity of ecosystems. Most of the country consists of limestone plains less than 200 metres above sea level and karst landscapes covered in lowland semi-deciduous broadleaf forest, lowland savannah, shrubland, wetlands, lowland pine forest, and freshwater rivers. In the south, the granite Maya Mountains reach 1,124 m and are dominated by submontane broadleaf forest and submontane pine forest. Along the coast are mangroves, lagoons and coastal savanna, and offshore lie seagrass beds, cays, atolls, and around 80% of the Mesoamerican Reef, the second-largest barrier reef in the world.

Belize also contains part of the largest tropical rainforest north of the Amazon. 60% of the country is forested – the highest rate of forest cover in Central America and the Caribbean. Unsurprisingly, Belize is high in biodiversity.


There are 577 species of bird found in Belize, including the Endangered Yellow-headed Amazon, Vulnerable Harpy Eagle, and Ocellated Turkey. The 163 species of mammal include the iconic Jaguar and the Endangered Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey, Yucatán Black Howler Monkey, and Baird’s Tapir. Belize’s 46 amphibian species include the endemic Maya Mountains Frog, and the 141 species of reptile present include the Critically Endangered Hicatee, the Vulnerable Belize Leaf-toed Gecko, and the endemic Peten Centipede Snake, the latter known from just a single locality. 43 species of freshwater fish are recorded, and of the 3,408 plant species found here, 58 are endemic to the country.

Belize has a high rate of deforestation, double that of the rest of Central America, spurred by policies that allow the government to cancel leases on forested land if the leaseholders do not clear the forest for development. Other threats to Belize’s ecosystems include slash-and-burn agriculture and overharvesting of forest products due to rising poverty, rapid coastal development, inadequate waste disposal, and the discovery of oil, many of these reserves within protected areas. WLT-funded projects like Rio Bravo and the Belize Maya Forest are helping to bring large swathes of the country’s rich terrestrial habitats under protection.


Our partners in Belize

Past Projects in Belize

Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area

Explore Rio Bravo with our Interactive Map

Belize Maya Forest

This 105,000 ha reserve was created in 2021 by an international consortium of NGOs, including WLT. The Belize Maya Forest was established alongside the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area (see below) and together they now protect 9% of Belize’s entire landmass.

The landmark project has brought permanent protection to the largest intact forest area remaining in Belize, connecting also to neighbouring reserves in Mexico and Guatemala to form the largest protected area complex in Central America. It also safeguards a vital gap within the Selva Maya, which at 15 million ha is the northernmost contiguous intact tropical forest in the Western Hemisphere.

Prior to the creation of the Belize Maya Forest, forest cover along the southern boundary of the project area had fallen by 59% over a 10-year period. Now this tropical biodiversity hotspot has received the protection it needs, providing a safe future for 200 tree species, more than 400 bird species (100 of them migratory) and 70 mammal species, including some of Central America’s largest surviving populations of Jaguar, Puma, Margay, and other native cats.

A view of a lake in the Maya Forest, Belize
A Geoffrey's Spider Monkey in a tree
North-eastern Biological Corridor

Completed in 2020, this corridor connects a network of six protected areas in Belize’s coastal Corozal District totalling 27,972 ha in size. WLT partner Corozal Sustainable Future Initiative (CSFI) currently manages three protected areas within the corridor: Freshwater Creek Forest Reserve, Honey Camp National Park, and Shipstern Nature Reserve (the northernmost nature reserve in Belize). In 2018, WLT’s Jungle for Jaguars appeal raised funds to purchase 3,299 ha in the corridor, with the Buy an Acre programme supporting a further 735 acres in 2019.

Prior to the completion of the corridor, the wider region had lost over 10,000 ha of forest over a 10-year period. Against this backdrop, the project has offered a vital lifeline for large animals like Jaguar, Puma, Baird’s Tapir and White-lipped Peccary, allowing them to move freely between protected areas, ensuring their long-term survival. The lagoons and tropical forests here also support birds like the Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Ocellated Turkey and Keel-billed Toucan (all Near Threatened), as well as many different species of hummingbird.

Rio Bravo

Owned and managed by Programme for Belize, the 102,790 ha (254,000-acre) Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area in northwest Belize is the largest private protected area in the country, covering 4.4% of Belize’s land area.

Rio Bravo includes lowland broad-leaved moist forest, lowland broad-leaved moist scrub forest, lowland savanna, and mangroves. Along with ancient Maya ruins, the reserve protects around 745 plant species, including the Endangered tree Quiina schippi. The 79 species of mammal found here include the Yucatán Black Howler Monkey, Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey, Baird’s Tapir, American Manatee, and all five of Belize’s wild cats. The Endangered Yellow-headed Amazon, Black Rail, and Great Curassow are among the 390 bird species recorded. Reptiles here include the Critically Endangered Hickatee.

WLT was founded in 1989 as the UK part of Programme for Belize to raise funds to purchase land and create the Rio Bravo. With our continued support, Programme for Belize employs rangers to protect the reserve from fires caused by illegal hunters and neighbouring cattle ranches.

A Red-capped Manakin perched on a branch

Key species protected by WLT projects


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