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Apr 11, 2019

Chiquibul: the Important Role of the Rangers & Soldiers

Illegal cattle ranching is just one of the threats to the Chiquibul forest; the area is remote, but it is rich with the most precious natural resources. On a daily basis it is plundered and the human and financial resources to manage the forest are slim.  Rangers of Friends and Conservation are on duty doing as much as humanly possible, but they are out matched by those who illegally enter to harvest the resources. In Part-two of the Chiquibul series, Hipolito Novelo and Darrel Moguel, along with the F.C.D. and the B.D.F., head to the Caballo Conservation Post which is just one point five miles from the borderline. The story highlights the important role that the rangers and soldiers play in protecting the natural resources of the forest. F.C.D. is operating on a budget of about seven hundred thousand dollars which is forty percent of what is actual needed if they are to carry out their mandate in a more effective way. Here is the story.

 

For most Belizeans, visiting the Chiquibul- walking through the thick forest and experiencing nature at its finest is merely just a thought. But for these highly trained F.C.D. rangers and B.D.F. soldiers, it is a weekly routine attached to their responsibilities.

Cameraman Darrell Moguel and I trekked more than four kilometers deep into the Chiquibul and I’ll be first to admit that it was not a walk in the park.

After receiving the details of the day’s plan, we set forth from Tapir Camp. Led by a team of armed B.D.F. and F.C.D. rangers, we set out first by car through an old logging road.

 

Derric Chan

Derric Chan, Park Manager, Chiquibul National Park

“The Caracol Road is here. We will be driving. It is a logging road. We will be driving about ten kilometers to this point.”

 

Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director, Friends for Conservation and Development

“So we really document how human footprint is occurring, any dangers, any threats, and any hotspot issues. And of course, we work particularly closely with the BDF, particular at the other CPs.” 

 

We arrived at the drop off point and into the jungle we ventured. Our trek would lead us to the Caballo Conservation Post- one point five miles away from the borderline.

As we forced ourselves through the thick forest, the start of the trek felt painless. The forest canopy provided much-needed protection from the sun’s harmful rays and the cool wind blowing through the trees was refreshing. The group would pause every so often as the leader checks the coordinates and gives the instruction as to which direction we would take.

We arrived at the first point- a secondary forest. What used to be a clearing is now slowly returning to its natural state- a process which will take many years.

The B.D.F. soldiers advanced to secure the area. We moved forward and as we did, the trek has begun taking a toll. My heart starts racing, sweat pouring down my face, and I begin to feel dehydrated and light headed. We take a break to recharge. The soldiers and rangers stand guard.

 

Derric Chan

“It takes a lot of determination, a lot of will, a lot of commitment to go out there, particularly this time of the year. It is very hot. There is not a lot of water here and it is open grassland so walking out there is very difficult. They have to take their water from here at the way to as far as they go. They have to take enough and that water they will use until they get back. So if you walk five miles u have to use about a gallon of water. You have to conserve water and be able to do your task.”

 

And the task of getting safely to the CP was easy for the soldiers and rangers. They are accustomed to it. I wasn’t. As difficult as it felt, we pressed on; climbing several hills- across the rugged terrain. We then came across cattle, a manmade pool, and horses- signs that there might be Guatemalans near. The B.D.F. and Rangers fan out while we stayed behind.

 

Derric  Chan

“We have seen a progressive and fast movement of people from Guatemalan along the border, in the Peten area and moving towards our border. Like 2002, 2004 we notice that it expanded very quickly.” 

 

Rangers cut the wires of a fence for us to continue our journey. It was a monitoring trip so the location of the cattle was recorded. The soldiers and rangers will return to the area with the intention to make an arrest.  Because of the illegal cattle ranching within the adjacency zone, addressing the issue is complicated as it requires instructions from the Government.

After what felt like a never-ending trek- we were finally some one hundred metres away from the conservation post. The last leg of our journey was particularly difficult. Our water had depleted and our energy was low. We had one more hill to climb to make it up at the CP where the cool breeze was in abundance.

 

Hipolito Novelo

Hipolito Novelo (Stand Up)

“The journey was grueling. It was arduous. It’s nothing I have experienced before. Honestly, for me, I have no idea how F.C.D. rangers and B.D.F. soldiers do this on a daily basis. I am talking incurring splinters all over your body, ticks crawling, trying to bury themselves under your skin, scratches. It was not an easy task. If your body isn’t fit for such a journey you would be pushing your body to the limit which is what we did today.” 

 

The work that these F.C.D. Rangers and B.D.F. soldiers do within the Chiquibul, for the most part, goes unnoticed.

 

Rafael Manzanero

Rafael Manzanero

“The resources are basically broken down into manpower and funds. Apart from that is the commitment to do this work. So you can separate it in both.  You can have all the resources but if you don’t have the commitment you still can mess it up.” 

 

And we are grateful that we didn’t. Hipolito Novelo, News Five.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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