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The PCSD Team inspecting mangrove deforestation © Neil Rogers

Belize needs your help

Time is quickly running out for some of Belize’s endangered species, yet if we act now there is still time to safeguard their future. If we do nothing then the fate of a charismatic species such as the endangered subspecies of Scarlet Macaw Ara macao cyanoptera may soon disappear from its last refuge in the Chiquibul Forest.

Protected areas are under assault from a wide range of threats including deforestation, illegal logging, xate extraction, poaching of endangered species, illegal fishing and artifact looters.

The majority of these threats come from external sources and are often the result of poverty in the neighbouring countries of Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Without sufficient rangers and security forces to patrol Belize’s terrestrial and marine protected areas the poachers, unlicensed fishermen, illegal loggers and artifact looters will continue to wreak havoc on our endangered species, forests, reefs and Maya sites.

Nurture Belize will work to bring a wide range of concerned stakeholders together to help Belize protect its rich biodiversity.

The economic downturn has seen Belize government funding for the forestry, fisheries and environmental protection agencies decline and protected areas co-managers are struggling to cope with the wide ranging and ever increasing threats. There are simply too few rangers to patrol and police the multiple threats that they face. Grant funding for rangers wages is rarely made available by conservation partners yet it is the lack of ‘boots on the ground’ that allows the poachers, loggers and looters to enter Belize with impunity and leave a trail of destruction in their wake.

We believe that individuals, hotels, local stakeholder groups and conservation oriented tour operators can make a difference through their contributions. Nurture Belize aims to highlight the work of these individuals and groups showing how they support Belize based NGOs that are at the front line of conservation enforcement.

Finding funding for a more aggressive protection and security strategy through putting more and better equipped rangers into the field is Nurture Belize’s primary goal.

Nurture Belize’s focus is to help tell the story of conservation in Belize and to raise funding to put the necessary boots on the ground to protect and conserve Belize’s key protected areas, critical habitats and endangered species.

Unless the poachers, illegal loggers, unlicensed fishermen and artifact looters know they stand a high chance of being apprehended and prosecuted they will not stop.

Currently Belize is very vulnerable to illegal cross-border incursions from neighbouring countries. It is imperative that rangers and law enforcement agencies have the transportation, technology and tools that are necessary to help them quickly identify, intercept and prosecute those that are entering Belize to illegally fish, poach or extract natural resources.

An increase in well trained and equipped rangers on the ground means a safer environment within protected areas, a win-win situation for both biodiversity and sustainable tourism.

How will we do this?

– by encouraging a more widespread voluntary donation strategy aimed at visitors to Belize. With the help of tourism stakeholders a comprehensive range of donation strategies could be put in place. Imagine the difference that a voluntary (opt-in, opt-out) donation of $2 US would make if every overnight visitor to Belize donated. The donation and fund raising strategy could be linked to grass roots education outreach campaigns designed to explain the issues and the potential solutions. Donations could be directly channeled to co-management NGOs in order to provide funding for the additional protected areas rangers that are necessary to robustly protect Belize’s biodiversity. The choice of how to use donations would be decided through consultation between local NGOs and the individuals, hotels and organizations who raised the funding.

– through campaigning for Special Conservation Areas that protect biodiversity hot spots including specific nesting, breeding or spawning sites of endangered species. These sites are extremely vulnerable and need elevated status if they are to be sustainable in the long term. Efforts to protect and ensure the long term survival of these rare and charismatic species can help boost interest in natural history tourism to Belize through showing that Belize is a country that values its natural heritage and ‘walks the walk’ as well as ‘talks the talk’ when it comes to sustainable tourism.

– By illustrating which hotels and businesses are genuinely committed to sustainability, conservation and community. By showcasing enlightened tourism businesses we hope that it will help concerned consumers make informed choices and in the process encourage adoption of sustainable tourism practices locally.

– through reaching out to wealthy philanthropists and corporations through exciting and engaging conservation strategies that can produce tangible results through robust enforcement of Belize’s environmental  legislation. Belize is a small country where philanthropists and corporations can get actively involved and see rapid, positive results from their much needed support.

– through ‘catalyst projects’ that develop community based tourism organizations and infrastructure focused on conservation practices, research projects, cultural experiences and wildlife watching. The aim being to help communities develop mechanisms and capacity, create sustainable livelihoods and in the process mentor a new generation of Belizean conservation leaders.

– through telling the story of the amazing biodiversity research that is taking place in Belize. The vast majority of biodiversity research projects in Belize survive on a shoestring budget, reliant on small grant funding from year-to-year. Without this invaluable work we will struggle to understand how we can better protect and conserve our rare and endangered species and understand the critical habitat they live in. By showcasing research projects and the wonders of Belize’s wild places on the Nurture Belize web site and other media we hope to inspire interest in natural history, eco-tourism and provide long term sustainable livelihoods and growth.

– through highlighting Belize’s conservation heros so that Belizeans’ better understand the passion and commitment of NGO staff, rangers and the security forces that put their lives on the line in order to protect Belize’s protected areas and biodiversity. We must inspire Belizeans’ to value and nuture their natural resources so that they are willing to fight to protect their natural resources, safeguarding them for the long term.

– through promoting a range of special interest donor trips, events and workshops that will deliver funding for specific campaigns or projects.

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