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Saving the Chiquibul!

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The Chiquibul Forest has long been in the spotlight as the “quiet war zone” near the border between Belize and Guatemala. This vast forest block of over 400,000 acres has been continuously abused and exploited for its natural wealth, largely by illegal incursions from Guatemala. Many know it as the forest of xaté palm, gold, and timber, but, more importantly, the Chiquibul provides fresh water for over 40% of Belize’s population. It provides life for Belizeans, and critical habitat for important biodiversity in our country, including the severely threatened scarlet macaw. Destruction caused by the Chalillo Dam has made access to the Chiquibul and the macaw nests even easier for poachers and thieves.


Fortunately, the Chiquibul is not entirely undefended. Friends for Conservation & Development (FCD) has worked tirelessly for many years to defend and preserve this invaluable forest, with only a handful of rangers. Last October, FCD’s efforts were given the recognition and support they deserve, through an outpouring of donations in a national Telethon. The funds raised were meant to reinforce the “boots on the ground,” by employing new rangers to patrol and protect the Chiquibul. Eleven new rangers have now joined the ranks, and received superb training recently in all aspects of “jungle readiness.”

FCD extended an invitation to The Belize Zoo to share our expertise with the new defenders, which TBZ accepted without hesitation. Education Director, Jamal Andrewin-Bohn, travelled to Tapir Camp at the entrance of the Chiquibul, to share knowledge of wildlife natural history and conservation. Jamal spoke to them about everything from raptors to reptiles, sharing animal artifacts, photos, and real vocalizations. The enthusiastic rangers warmly received such valuable information about the beasts and birds they would be sharing space with, and asked many questions. The main question on a lot of minds was “What happens if I come across a jaguar?” Jamal assured them that the “king of the jungle” had little to no interest in humans, and that this master of stealth has probably seen them (and avoided them) far more times than they have seen him! The best advice given for coming across any dangerous wildlife, was to give it space where possible, and respect that it, too, has an important role in our forests, just like the rangers.

TBZ congratulates FCD and their new rangers, and wishes them safe journeys through the Chiquibul. Paws Up to wonderful efforts to save Belize’s natural heritage! 

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