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Oct 22, 2020

BATSUB Donates Motion Sensor Cameras to Help Jaguar Conservation!

Today, the British Army Training Support Unit Belize invited the press to share how they are championing environmental stewardship in Belize.  BATSUB says that while they have a permit to allow some three thousand seven hundred and fifty soldiers to train over the years they have only had two thousand five hundred soldiers a year. While those trainings include a combination of activities that at times can see the use of weapons – their activities are monitored to ensure that they are not disrupting the natural course of the environment.  Reporter Andrea Polanco tells us more about how BATSUB is partnering with a jaguar conservation N.G.O. to support conservation work.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The British Army Training Support Unit Belize (BATSUB) has been doing military training in Belize for decades. In recent years, BATSUB trains two thousand five hundred soldiers a year. They do this in groups of one hundred and fifty up to about four hundred soldiers at a single time.

 

Simon Nichols

Lt. Col. Simon Nichols, Commander, BATSUB

“When they move out to the jungle locations they are – because of the nature of the jungle and the nature of jungle warfare – they are not traversing over great distances and they can’t use vehicles so it has minimal impact in terms of footprint and so they tend to stay in one or two small spaces and they are not roaming around the areas. The type of training that we do is a mixture of navigation and we do what is called dry training which is not using live ammunition, it is just simulated bangs which are much reduced. We do use some live fire but that is a very small percentage of what we do over here and when we do that we go to the utmost to ensure that things such as trees – we would use preventative measures  such as sand bags  or use dead fallen logs in front of the trees.”

 

But the research in other parts of the world shows that military trainings can alter an environment. So, do these jungle trainings interfere with Belize’s the natural environment?  In 2017, BATSUB and the Defense Infrastructure Organization (DIO) completed an environmental impact assessment to find out if the military trainings affect the ecology of their training sites in Belize. They now have a three year monitoring program with PANTHERA Belize:

 

Lt. Col. Simon Nichols

“An environmental compliance requirement from DOE is to have a monitoring strategy in place to undertake systemic recording of wildlife in and around our live firing ranges. DIO – BATSUB have contracted with PANTHERA to deliver a three-year monitoring program to assess the effects of military training, specifically live firing, on the mammalian species here in Belize.”

 

Lt. Col Simon Nichols says that the first year of research shows that the military’s footprint on the environment is minimal. He notes that there is very little long term impact of military’s live firings on animals, particularly jaguars, in the jungles where they train.

 

Lt. Col. Simon Nichols

“There was little variations between military training locations and controlled sites for detection rates, activities patterns, species assemblies or jaguar home range patters. The research has shown that in 1963 line and Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve they are both functioning well as wildlife reserves with high species richness and abundance. From the initial comparisons it appears that in long term capacity historic use of these sites for the live firings have had a negligible effects and impact on the species, ecology, and behavior within these sites.”

 

But these training areas, for example in the Cockscomb Basin range, are also home to a number of animals including wild cats – and so these are monitored by Panthera-Belize. The N.G.O. promotes the conservation of the wild cats, especially jaguars. Across the world, and even Belize, jaguar populations are in decline. So, to support management and research, Panthera-Belize installs activated camera traps to monitor the health of jaguars. But these cameras are often removed by those engaged in illicit activities or they are destroyed by other elements. So, as a part of its commitment to the environment and its partnership with PANTHERA-BELIZE, BATSUB handed over twenty new motion cameras four data storage devices to be used to monitor wildlife in some of the training areas that the British Army uses in Belize. Emma Sanchez of Panthera Belize explains how valuable these cameras are to the conservation of wildcats like jaguars.

 

Emma Sanchez

Emma Sanchez, Research Biologist, PANTHER-BELIZE

“They can be put in the field and they are motion triggered, therefore, anything that passes in front of it, any movement is detected by the camera. So, in terms of the fauna, these cameras have settings in there to record the date and time and of course the location of where the camera is placed at. When we get the images, we are able to do a series of analysis which include checking the activity of each of the species given that we have enough sample to do that and we check the detection rates which is used sort of a proxy measure to abundance which is the number of animals within an area and for the larger cats or the large cats that are spotted, since they are individually recognized so we can do density estimates which is used in terms of management of an area. If you have a high density of the large cats meaning that would also translate that the habitat is good enough for it and also have enough prey to have that higher density.”

 

The value of the donation is over five thousand Belize dollars. Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.


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