“Development” in the Labouring Creek Jaguar Corridor Wildlife Sanctuary
Since 2009 the ERI and international wild cat conservation partner, Panthera have been actively conducting wildlife research in the Central Belize Corridor (CBC) located just south of the Rio Bravo Managment Area. An agreement signed between the Government of Belize and Panthera on the 28th of July 2010, committed them to the establishment of a biological corridor in central Belize that would serve to connect the Maya Mountain Massif in the south with the La Selva Maya in the north. This corridor would provide the much needed linkage of forest for the ease of movement of wildlife. Then on April 9th 2011, following on its commitment, the Government of Belize declared an area at the top of the CBC as the Labouring Creek Jaguar Corridor Wildlife Sanctuary (LCJCWS). Only research, education and tourism focused activities are legally permitted in this protected area.
The LCJCWS forms a key link in the CBC, connecting the Rio Bravo Conservation & Management Area to the Belize River. It is the only place where riparian forest remains on both banks of the Belize River within the corridor area. In turn, the CBC, which is otherwise comprised of privately-owned lands, is a crucial link in the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. This transnational corridor connects protected forest blocks in Belize and the rest of Central and South America to the largest forest block north of Colombia: the Petén in Guatemala and Calakmul in Mexico. Without these connections, the forest and wildlife of the Maya Mountains in Belize will become isolated and increasingly at risk of unrecoverable extinction.
However, despite the overwhelming importance of the corridor, a 3 km drainage canal leading to the Belize River has been excavated by a development company, Green Tropics, right through the middle of the LCJCWS, cleaving the protected area. A 50m wide strip of land was cleared to excavate the canal, which is up to 12m deep in some places. This will almost certainly disrupt the movement of most of the 22 species of large to medium sized mammals known to the region, altering the function of the corridor.
The ERI and Panthera have expressed deep concerns about the excavation of the canal and forest clearance within the LCJCWS because of its negative impact on the function of the CBC and because these activities are considered illegal within a protected area such as the LCJCWS.