National Geographic Features Article on Incursions into Belize

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Updated: March 14, 2016

As the Government of Belize discusses ways in addressing this latest incident at the Sarstoon River with the Guatemalan Armed Forces and their aggression towards Belize’s military, an article written by Dr Jeremy Radachowsky, wcs article 1who is the Director of the Mesoamerican and Western Caribbean Region at the Wildlife Conservation Society has highlighted some of the very incursions taking place by the Guatemalans on Belizean territory.  The series of articles being written are published on the National Geographic website and serves to document a 5,000-mile “mega flyover” through Central America to document the state of the region’s great forests, starting in the vast Maya Forest of Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico.  This initiative is being undertaken by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  In the publication dated March 11, 2016, it speaks of the Chiquibul National Park and its mystique and history that it bears in its caverns.  wcs article 2The aerial views of the forests are documented on their advanced equipment as both organizations are working together to support the conservation of Central America’s five largest forest landscapes.  As the team made their way south of Belize, the article states, quote, “We start off flying south along the disputed frontier between Guatemala and Belize. There is no mistaking the border – on the Belizean side is forest as far as the eye can see. In stark contrast, the Guatemalan side is almost completely denuded.  As we fly over the pristine heart of the Maya Mountains at Belize’s Bladen Nature Reserve, it is evident where colonists have made incursions into Belize. Rectangular plots have been cleared for agriculture amidst the intact forest, increasing tensions between the two countries. Some plots are extremely fresh, with still-green trees lying flat against the earth.  wcs article 3We next fly over the deeper, more intact parts of Chiquibul National Park, Bladen Nature Reserve, and Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, where sharp, mist-enshrouded limestone peaks poke out of the forest.  We cannot see them from above, but even in these more remote parts of the forest, prospectors take advantage of the craggy limestone terrain to avoid detection while illegally panning for gold, extracting timber, hunting, and poaching wildlife.  In fact, sightings of the white-lipped peccary, the “canary in the coal mine” of Central America’s forests, have become extremely rare. According to Rafael, there has only been one sighting of white-lips in the Chiquibul in the past two years and the remaining herd is very small, a clear sign of hunting pressure.  Despite the threats, government officials and valiant rangers from both countries are protecting these forests. The Belizean Forest Department is reviewing key legislation and developing a national compliance strategy for its protected areas.”  End of quote.  According to the article, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is providing much-needed funding to local partners to ensure enduring solutions for this important landscape; adding that binational collaboration around natural resource protection is leading the charge for diplomatic discussions between the two countries.