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UB ERI’s, Dr. Bart Harmsen Presents the ERI’s Work in the Central Belize Wildlife Corridor

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On Wednesday of last week, ERI’s Panthera Research Fellow, Dr. Bart Harmsen presented the ERI’s work in the Central Belize Wildlife Corridor. This presentation was held as a part of a series of colloquia presentations hosted by the University of Belize.

An open invitation was issued for anyone interested to sit in and view this presentation where he presented on the importance of a corridor and how the ERI is working to establish permanent boundaries of this corridor. The talk indicated the importance of creating a wildlife corridor linking the two largest blocks of broadleaf forest within Belize: The Rio Bravo in the North which is further connected to the wider Selva Mayan Forest block in Guatemala and Mexico and the largest contiguous forest block in Belize, the Maya Mountains in Southern Belize. The Central Belize Corridor (CBC) represents the last forested patch between these two forest blocks, allowing wildlife to move freely from North to South. This movement is necessary to prevent isolation of the larger wide ranging species in the Maya Mountains. Wide ranging species living at low density such as jaguars, white lipped peccaries and tapirs need enormous areas to maintain viable populations. The numbers of these species in the Maya Mountains are likely too low to assure long term survival in isolation. The area needs connection with the North to prevent loss of genetic diversity in the Maya Mountains which could lead to local extinction. In the talk it was indicated that the CBC currently still connects the two forest blocks with healthy numbers of jaguars, tapirs and peccaries present in this corridor. However the area is highly threatened by over-hunting, development and legal and illegal extraction. On top of this, the entire area was heavily affected by hurricane Richard in October 2010 and subsequent fires in the dry season of 2011. To prevent further degradation of the corridor this area needs to be managed in a more sustainable manner and landowners and communities need to be given the right economic incentives to allow them to maintain the forest cover.

Present were both students and staff from the faculty of science and technology including chair of the science department, Dr. Joaquin Urbina and the ERI’s Dr. Elma Kay. The next presenter from ERI staff will be Dr. Arlenie Perez, ERI Marine Research Fellow who will be presenting on Natural Resource Management. This presentation will be held on April 25th in room D4 of the Jabiru Building at the University of Belize’s central campus in Belmopan.

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