Chiquibul National Park Shows Signs of Recovery, says FCD

Chiquibul National Park Shows Signs of Recovery, says FCD

Friends of Conservation and Development (FCD), the NGO that co-manages the Chiquibul National Park, says that the protected area is recovering. Over the past several years FCD has documented the impacts of illegal logging, cattle ranching, poaching, and farming in the Chiquibul. Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director of FCD, says that despite all the environmental strain, the NGO has seen marked recovery in areas where authorities have managed to reduce the human footprint. 

Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director, FCD: “I think the xatero activity basically has almost disappeared from the Chiquibul because of multiple factors. So one of course was the more farther the people come into the territory then they have a higher probability of being caught. Law enforcement in terms of the human footprint increased over the years and thus there were more detentions of individuals arrested and put in front of the courts. And in Guatemala also the market has basically reduced a lot also and importantly the authorities in Guatemala were no longer giving any permits for people to extract the xate from the wild. All xate export in Guatemala had been from basically from cultivations, from farms so it had to be cultivated so the permits for exportation from the wild in terms of species of xate was no longer one given. So there was pretty much a marked number of interventions that helped them to curb that level of activity. You might say also that there could have been more lucrative businesses where now people are becoming involved. For example we have noticed that some of the people from around the communities in Guatemala are now becoming more like employees of the cattle ranchers for example and so they may be making a livelihood out of that instead of really wandering in the jungle finding xate.”

Manzanero said that one of several factors that played into the recovery of certain areas was the dramatic drop in the harvesting of Xate leaves. Past reports from FCD show that Xate exports from Guatemala were valued at around four million US dollars a year, prompting many Guatemalans to come into Belize for the hot commodity. However, changes in the industry on the Guatemalan side have left many xateros seeking employment in other industries. 

Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director, FCD: “I mean any forest area or any part of nature really has a level of resiliency. So in other words if a forest is left and safeguarded it can return back and in fact we can prove that in the Chiquibul. You know despite all the issues that we have been reporting over the years the number of acreage that had been increasing from 2007 or even prior to that it reached to a highest point in 2015 and thereafter then the level of degradation has been decreasing over all. It was until last year in 2023 that we documented a slight increase in these very same areas that now we are reporting about the road in southern Chiquibul. So in other words other areas across that landscape was being recovered. So we felt really pleased but it did not only take one year of effort, this thing too quite some good years of investment, of man power, of human resources, of other mobilization efforts in that zone. And so the forest can return back, in fact the wild animals that were in some cases almost disappearing from the Chiquibul are now returning and the populations are now really becoming healthy.”

FCD conducted a site visit along with government officials in the Chiquibul last week, after discovering an illegal road originating in Guatemala and stretching some 1.4 miles into Belize. Manzanero said that the situation needs to be addressed with urgency, to minimize the environmental impact.

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