Conservation news

Belize officially declares wildlife corridor in key protected area complex

A wildlife corridor in northern Belize has been officially declared by government order and, together with a system of three nature reserves in what’s known as the country’s “sugar cane belt,” will now be included in a Special Management Area in perpetuity.

Belize’s Міnіѕtеr оf Аgrісulturе, Fіѕhеrіеѕ, Fоrеѕtrу, thе Еnvіrоnmеnt, Ѕuѕtаіnаblе Dеvеlорmеnt аnd Іmmіgrаtіоn ѕіgnеd іntо lаw аn оrdеr dесlаring thе Nоrth-Eаѕtеrn Віоlоgісаl Соrrіdоr on Јаnuаrу 17. Тhe lаw went іntо еffесt оn Јаnuаrу 22, according to a press release issued by the government of Belize.

The wildlife corridor was approved by Belize’s Cabinet in February 2018. Per the governmental press release, “The enactment of the order carries out Cabinet’s decision to protect important forests situated in the sugar cane belt, in order to protect the biological connectivity of protected areas and safeguard the ecosystem services provided by these forests, including watershed preservation and rain formation.”

Camera trap photo of a Baird’s tapir in the Northeastern Biological Corridor. Credit: CSFI.

In the release, the government of Belize sets a bold and hopeful tone for the future of forest conservation in the Central American country: “The declaration of the North-eastern Biological Corridor marks the beginning of a new era and culture of conservation for Belize. The Government commits to replicating this activity in other parts of the country in order to protect and sustainably utilize forest and other natural resources, thereby ensuring that the social, environmental, and economic benefits afforded by forests are enjoyed by Belize’s current and future generations.”

The 27,000-hectare (nearly 67,000-acre) Belize Norheastern Biological Corridor includes some 13,600 hectares (nearly 34,000 acres) of private lands. It was designed to connect Shipstern Nature Reserve with Freshwater Creek Forest Reserve and Honey Camp National Park, allowing safe passage for iconic wildlife such as jaguars and pumas in a region where more than 10,000 hectares (or 25,000 acres) of forest have been lost over the past decade, according to Belize-based conservation NGO Corozal Sustainable Future Initiative (CSFI). The corridor was initially conceived of more than 20 years ago, and is the result of a partnership between the government of Belize, conservation groups like CSFI, stakeholder communities, and the private sector.

Camera trap photo of a white-lipped peccary in the Northeastern Biological Corridor. Credit: CSFI.

The corridor “provides large animals, such as Jaguar and Baird’s Tapirs, enough space to move freely between protected areas, and thus [helps] ensure their long-term survival,” per CSFI, which adds that “Ongoing wildlife monitoring activities within the area, confirm healthy populations of large mammal species such as jaguars, puma, Baird’s tapir and white-lipped peccaries. Without the continuous natural link between protected areas now established by this new corridor, their survival would be far from certain in the long term.”

The Northeastern Biological Corridor is comprised of lowland broadleaf forests, mangroves, littoral forest, freshwater lagoons, and wetlands that support more than 1,000 species of plants and animals.

“It is important to set aside the area for this type of use because it provides vital ecosystems services such as pollination, water retention and release, rain formation and flood mitigation to the surrounding sugarcane, beans, rice croplands and adjacent communities,” the government of Belize said. “The natural ecosystems within the area also provide for income generation for local communities through the provision of game meat, timber and employment opportunities with the local organizations that help to manage and protect the area.”

Credit: CSFI.
Credit: The Government of Belize.
Camera trap photo of a jaguar in the Northeastern Biological Corridor. Credit: CSFI.

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