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Mar 19, 2015

Friends of Conservation Graduates New Rangers for Chiquibul Patrols

For years Friends for Conservation and Development has been battling the illegal incursions of Guatemalans into the Chiquibul National Park. These Guatemalans come to cut our timber, harvest our xate, pan for our gold and some even cultivate sizable farms on our land. It’s been an uphill struggle for the FCD, faced with the sheer immensity of the Park and a critical lack of human and other resources. But things have changed. Today the organization hosted a significant graduation ceremony at its Tapir Camp Base in the Chiquibul National Park. Mike Rudon was there and has the story.


Mike Rudon, Reporting

Where the anthem refers to wealth untold bestowed by nature, the author could well have been referring to the vast treasure of the Chiquibul National Park. Roughly the size of the Corozal District, this natural storehouse teems with luxurious forests, exotic flora and fauna, pristine watersheds and precious minerals. All that wealth lies within Belizean territory, but for many years its allure has been far too great for encroachers to resist. To withstand the onslaught, Friends for Conservation and Development, FCD, stand as sentinels of the park. Today that organization proudly introduced eleven new rangers to assist in monitoring and patrols, made possible through its ongoing lobbying efforts.


Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director, FCD

Rafael Manzanero

“It is able to bring about the true purpose of the telethon and the fundraising activities that we had with the support of the media and all other we have had to support us. Basically we have our rangers; we have passed them through he training as best as passing them through the field. We feel much more confident putting them out in the field. So it is really a special day indeed in terms of phasing the first stage of things and now the area of implementation is about to come.”


The rangers went through an intensive month-long training course – ranging the gamut from first-aid and search and rescue to patrolling, law enforcement monitoring, detention procedures and wildlife conservation. These few who made the cut are the best of the best, selected primarily because of their character, passion, determination and appreciation of the importance of conservation. Today they demonstrated some of what they learned.


Rafael Manzanero

“We had over a hundred and fifteen applicants from all across Belize who wanted to be an FCD ranger. So we screened them, we actually had a small set of us that went through the screening process. They had to be vetted also because we need to see their police records and then ewe pass them under what we call a probationary period. They have also undertaken the training so it was a manner of identifying only the best in terms of not only the academics but also it has to be a person that can know bush-craft and know how to operate in the jungle. It is actually a mix of things but primarily one of the main things in the criteria was character, you had to see how good they are in their positive character, be a really good person that can be a good citizen even in the future when it comes to developing their attributes and skills.”


The graduation today brings the full complement of active FCD rangers to eighteen. They will be deployed to the observation posts in the Chiquibul in rotating shifts, working two weeks at a time. For an area as vast as the Chiquibul, there is always a need for more, but for now, Manzanero is satisfied that the capacity of the FCD has been enhanced to a significant degree.


Rafael Manzanero

“The presence is really highly important so long with the government the idea of developing this conservation post was really critical to that same concept and guidelines that we had wanted to put in the Chiquibul Conservation Program. So now we feel that pretty much with a ranger in the unit we should be able to cover the range. Of course we can always talk about bigger numbers but I feel like if we have twelve people here at any given time at least that is three times more than what we had before. So we should be able to cover the range in terms of having a presence so that we can do the job and we will have a small unit here that will be able to go in and monitor the program.


Several of the rangers who now join the ranks of the FCD have prior military experience, which is expected to be an asset in the monitoring of the park.

Mike Rudon for News Five.

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