The Belize Audubon Society held consultations with several tourism stakeholders in Placencia to discuss how the industry can use the conservation parks for recreational activities to boost the country’s tourism and bring awareness to the importance of conservation. Reporter Giovanna Moguel files the following report.
Giovanna Moguel, Love FM News: The Cocscomb Basin’s Wildlife Sanctuary’s rugged landscape is blanketed by a tropical greenery that is home to an estimated 800 jaguars, the highest amount in all of Meso-America. The Belize Audubon Society is tasked with the day to day management of this conservation park to ensure proper maintenance and sustainability. The Protected Areas Director of the Belize Audubon Society, Shane Young, explained the sanctuary can be used to generate revenue to protect the jaguars.
Shane Young, Protected Areas Director, BAS: “We co-manage seven protected areas on behalf of the Government of Belize. One of those seven is Cocscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. We realise that beside the conservation component, you know, there’s recreational activities that is taking place at Cocscomb such as hiking, river tubing, birding in particular.”
Giovanna Moguel, Love FM News: Young says that consultations with hoteliers and tour operators open the door for discussions on how protected areas managers can work in tandem with stakeholders and how they can complement the development of both industries.
Shane Young, Protected Areas Director, BAS: “We have some wonderful banners promoting Cocscomb and likewise some fliers as well and also to look at how best, you know it’s just how best we could improve as protected areas managers and how we could support and complement the tourism sector. To be quite frank, I think we undervalue the worth of protected areas. I think many a times we take for granted that protected areas is this restricted area but it does provide economic opportunities and one of them is tourism and the protected areas that we manage plays an important role when it comes to being a part of that tourism product that Belize sells.”
Giovanna Moguel, Love FM News: Although the goal is to maximise the country’s natural resources, Young says, there are certain obstacles they have to cross such as the upkeep of the parks and infrastructural upgrades can be costly.
Shane Young, Protected Areas Director, BAS: “One of the biggest challenges that we have at Cocscomb is the access road leading into Cocscomb. I’m sure that the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing would agree with me that maintaining roads is very expensive. The access road to Cocscomb is about 8 miles in length and so maintaining that access road is really difficult and very expensive so certainly you know we have to lean on the Government to assist us in maintaining that road. Other than that, you know, we have the tails that you have to maintain. We have about 44 trails that we have to maintain. Likewise, infrastructure such as bridges, stairs along the trail that we also have to maintain and that comes along with a cost. So there’s several modes of which we generate income for the management of these sites. One of them is visitation. Visitors to the site they pay an entrance fee which is not much. I think it’s like 8 BZD for Cocscomb and then of course we have to fundraise as Protected Areas managers. I’m looking for donors who would want to support conservation.”
Giovanna Moguel, Love FM News: Young believes that having this type of dialogue with stakeholders is ideal to provide an insight into the improvements that are needed to add more value to Belize’s tourism product. Reporting for Love News, Giovanna Moguel.