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Dec 16, 2015

Revisiting the Chiquibul 2 Years after Launch of Awareness Campaign

What is the state of Belize’s largest national park two years after launching an active campaign to raise awareness on the value of the Chiquibul?  Today was report card day for Friends for Conservation and Development, as the non-government organization met with the media to give an update on the condition of the protected area. There is only one bright spot because illegal activities are on the rise. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The Chiquibul National Park, located in the Cayo District, is virtually dotted along the western border by twenty-four Guatemalan villages.  With approximately thirty thousand inhabitants populating the stretch of frontier communities, human pressure on the area is tremendous.  Despite maintaining law enforcement presence in the dense wilderness, xaté extraction, gold panning, poaching, illegal logging and deforestation are perennial issues.

 

Derric Chen

Derric Chen, Manager, Chiquibul National Park

“We’ve actually been doing a lot of joint patrols to address illegal milpas in the area of South Cebada.  South Cebada, we had it on the news for several times, is an area that was really hot and we actually, in the year 2014 and 2015 we’ve been addressing, you know, really working hard in that area with the assistance of the Belize Defense Force and the Special Patrol Unit of the police.”

 

In 2015, Belize has lost an estimated half a million U.S. dollars in illegally harvested xaté.  While that figure is down from 2012, doing away with the unlawful practice altogether still proves to be quite challenging.  Coupled with that is the lasting impact of illegal logging.  Notwithstanding a decrease, the aggregate felling of mahogany and cedar trees amounting to forty-five thousand, five hundred and sixty-seven hectares of land being cleared between 2010 and 2015 has cost us thirty million U.S. dollars.  To make matters worse the unwanted dwellers of the Chiquibul are constantly on the move.

 

Derric Chen

“Milpa farmers have moved from the area of South Cebada and moved to an area we call Sapote.  The Sapote area and, you know, we could see that they have moved north, sort of like showing some of the dynamics of how the farmers they also monitor our activities.”

 

Equally on the rise is game hunting.  Poachers have been known to track various species of exotic and wild birds, including scarlet macaws and curassows for commercial purpose.

 

Boris Hilton

Boris Hilton

“When people are engaged in xate extraction, illegal logging, gold panning and all other activities, they also do hunting.  Most of this hunting is for them to survive during their stay in the forest, but then we have also records that some people will come into the Chiquibul forest to do illegal hunting for a commercial purpose.  Because if I am a single individual working in the Chiquibul working xate there is no need for me to shoot this amount of birds, okay, if I know I could only eat one in maybe, over three days.  So this indicates to us that people are coming to hunt for commercial purposes as well and when you have that then your species that are being targeted is of concern as well, you know.”

 

Gold panning, over the past few years, continues to be a problem that, for the most part, goes seemingly unabated.  The last reported arrests was a little over a month ago when a pair of men from La Esmeralda, Peten was caught panning for the precious metal in the area of Ceibo Grande Creek.

 

Boris Hilton

“They have been concentrating their activities in this particular area.  So the distance is about twelve kilometers [in a] straight line, very difficult terrain to get to this portion.  All the black little streams are the areas where gold panners have been conducting sampling, you know.  They are prospecting.  They will go and dig a little bit to see if they have a lot of gold.  If they don’t find any gold then they don’t come and do their gold panning there.”

 

According to Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director of FCD, access to the vast expanse is difficult.

 

Rafael Manzanero

Rafael Manzanero, Exec. Dir., Friends for Conservation & Development

“Anybody who has been to Chiquibul, even though as you are driving from San Ignacio to San Antonio it’s really a terrible road and as you go farther in it certainly becomes even much more, you know, complicated.  We have two tractors at FCD that help in terms of mobilizing the people in but those are breaking almost every month.  So I either we have to refer to only hiking alone or we have to wait for the helicopters to arrive but the point is that the road access is highly important for us to get to and reach to those points.”

 

To effectively combat harmful activities occurring within the Chiquibul Forest, FCD rangers attest that intruders are indeed formidable and strategic, therefore constant patrols are necessary even when agricultural fields seem to have been deserted.  Likewise, a bi-national effort between Belize and Guatemala needs to be sustained in order to implement the Memorandum of Understanding pertaining to environmental protection. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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1 Response for “Revisiting the Chiquibul 2 Years after Launch of Awareness Campaign”

  1. Hatari says:

    Although, FCD is doing a commendable job, BDF & Police efforts are seriously falling short. Until GOB gets serious about protecting the Chiquibul, we will continue to lose this battle. FCD can only do so much with the meager financial resources that they are given by local and international supporters. GOB must step up to the plate and do their part. Thank you FCD, without you the Chiquibul is lost!

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