Poaching, wildlife trafficking and other illegal encroachments have caused major challenges for Belize’s Chiquibul Forest and a bi-national illegal wildlife task force has been formed to address those setbacks. Love News spoke to the Executive Director of the Friends for Conservation Development, Rafael Manzanero about the cross-border partnership.
Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director, F.C.D: “The main purpose of the task force is really to have a platform for exchange of information among technicians from both Belize and Guatemala concerning the matter of illegal wildlife trafficking. So this is really a venture that had been started a couple of years ago and now the idea is really to reinstitute it once again hopefully to expand it over the next couple of months. In the case of Belize the Forest Department is a key regulatory agency so they are a part of it and we would have also the Belize Defence Force representative, the Police Department, of course FCD who are really part of the joint forces activities and operations conducting in the Chiquibul so they would be an integral part of it. We are hoping that over the next couple of months as we start to develop the action plan that we would be able to have the inclusion of other institutions that certainly have also a common interest in terms of illegal wildlife trafficking. In the case of Guatemala there would also be counterparts of course and the main one is the Consejo Nacional de Areas Protegidas which really relates to protected areas in Guatemala and then the Foro de Justicia Ambiental Wildlife Conservation Society and Association Balam are the other key players at this moment in the case of Guatemala.”
Manzanero elaborated on the importance of data collection and how these key pieces of information shapes the overall action plan.
Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director, F.C.D: The main role of the task force as I mentioned is really to have a first hand set of date information as the incidents are occurring so that we can be much more strategic in terms of interventions on the ground. I can inform at this stage that we have for example here in the Chiquibul an anti poaching unit however what we see here in the landscape are really more of the poachers if they are becoming active, to what extent the frequencies occurring, what areas they’re covering but there’s more data that we don’t know and that data can only come through other counterparts in Guatemala such as the routes that they are using, you know where are these animals actually ending are they exporting the animals from Guatemala to other parts ? I mean we don’t have that information so the idea is really to develop an action plan that will be able to provide a set of actions to be done jointly which will include also patrols and interventions across on the Guatemalan side of the landscape. So you know of course at this stage we are already involved in the anti poaching activities but for sure I mean this plan of action will be for the next two to three years ongoing and so it is important really to relay to it at this time as it is a hot issue and so the actions hopefully will be able to prevent and reduce that illegal wildlife trafficking matter.”
The organization adds that the next step towards the final action plan will be hammered out at its next session on June twenty-four.