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Aug 3, 2004

U.N.D.P. helps Swallow Caye Friends protect Manatees

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Located just two miles east of Belize City, Swallow Caye consists of nine thousand five hundred and fifty-four acres of mangrove ecosystems, home to a number of wildlife and marine species such as the manatee. But because of the sanctuary?s location, the manatee especially is threatened by the many vessels that pass through the area to get to Caye Caulker, San Pedro Ambergris Caye and other popular island destinations. Today a donation to Friends of Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary promises to put in place the measures and infrastructure needed to properly manage the area. During brief ceremonies at sea, over forty-five thousand dollars from the United Nations Development Programme Global Environmental Facility Small Grants Programme were handed over to the group?s president Lionel “Chocolate” Heredia.

Jacqueline Woods

?This morning we were fortunate to see a couple of manatees. Just how many manatees live in this area??

Lionel ?Chocolate?Heredia, President, Friends of Swallow Caye

?In this area there is approximately thirty; here where we are right now, is the majority of them. Those ones you see live in the other parts of the coast and in the big channel. But what you see here, is where they come out to feed and then they go in because they go under the roots because in the middle there is the lagoons and they live there. Because the Manatees that we have here in Belize are the Antillean Manatees; they are a little more smaller than the West Indian Manatees and Belize have the most Antillean Manatees.?

Jacqueline Woods

?What we also saw out here and it was pretty disturbing for me to witness it, is the speed of which boats go through this particular area despite the fact that there are go slow signs posted around the area.?

Lionel ?Chocolate?Heredia, President, Friends of Swallow Caye

?I don?t believe a protected area without rules and regulations can be a protected area. And to deal with the people from outside is another headache you have every day because they won?t listen to you; I don?t understand them. I can?t see why and up to now, you see today and that?s nothing. Sometimes they come all the way in here and that?s why I try hard. Now I am happy that we will do something about it.?

Philip Balderamos, Coordinator, UNDP/GEF

?This project is a perfect example of protecting the natural resource base which is marine habitat, the mangroves and the endangered manatee and also involving the users in the conservation management of these resources. So, that is the main reason why we decided to fund this project.?

?What they need to do is to follow the budget designation and use the funds for the activities that were approved by our national starring committee. They need to ensure that the money is spent for the construction of their ranger station, for hiring and equipping rangers, for buying a boat and outboard engines for patrols, for putting up signs–there are quite a number of activities that form part of the contract and we hold the grantee to those conditions that they must abide by the budget of their approved grant.?

The project will last for twelve months and at its completion, UNDP/GEF would have donated a total of seventy nine thousand dollars to Friends of Swallow Caye.

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