Belize & Guat to Put An End To It!

Roan McNab

Wildlife crime is a big business and it is operated by multinational, risky networks.  Wildlife, that is animals and plants, are trafficked much like illegal drugs and arms, and very often they end up in countries far away from where they were illegally extracted. By its very nature, it is almost impossible to obtain reliable figures for the value of illegal wildlife trade, but estimates put the value between five to twenty billion dollars globally and it is the fourth most lucrative illegal trade in the world. And, believe, it or not, Belize has fallen prey to that industry. Over the years, we’ve heard the Friends of Conservation and Development talk about Guatemalans illegal extraction of timber, xate, scarlet macaws, among other species. Well, now Belize and Guatemala want to put a stop to this illegal trade. Personnel from the Wildlife Conservation Society, along with the FCD, government agencies and other NGO’s met in Belize City to map the way forward through a bi-national collaboration to eradicate wildlife trafficking in Belize and Guatemala. News Five was at today’s event and spoke with two of the partners:

Roan McNab,  , Country Director, Wildlife Conservation Society, Guatemala

 “We are here with some people that are working on the international trafficking of wildlife in Asia and Africa, doing workshops with partners in Belize and Guatemala. The main mission is to spread the word here in Belize that there is a huge wave of pressure on wildlife and it is spreading across the planet and Belize needs to be ready for it.”

Andrea Polanco

“In terms of Belize, the readiness, what do you think we need to put in place?”

Roan McNab, 

“Well, I think there needs to be a public awareness campaign and with the media being here we are off to a good start to talk about the use of wildlife and the pressure of wildlife. There needs to be good investment in the parks and rangers so that they can patrol protected areas, especially the seascapes and marine resources that make Belize so beautiful and attractive to tourism. There also needs to be ways to investigate international trafficking of wildlife because a lot of Belize’s wildlife are now being sent across the market, way across, and some of that is illegal trade and it is really worrisome.”

Andrea Polanco

“I believe as this time there is still a lot to be done to quantify the value and the impact that is taking place inside the Chiquibul, from illegal Guatemalans coming over and taking them out. In terms of looking at it from a global picture, how big is this industry? “

Roan McNab, 

“That’s what we are trying to quantify and for the first time we have solid collaboration on both side so the border between Belize and Guatemala. We have people in Guatemala that is trying to investigate these networks for the first time and we are working with the Guatemalan authorities to try and capture the people and capture the middle man that are really making the most money off this pet trade, but we have some initial statistics that we are going to present today such as one thousand five hundred parrots being confiscated in Guatemala over an eight year period. We think that that’s maybe only one or two or three percent of the total flow and that it pretty significant and we think that a lot of that is actually coming out of Belize.”

Andrea Polanco

“Would you say there is a genuine interest on the side of Guatemala for us to

address this issue, as neighboring countries?”

Roan McNab, 

“I would say so. It’s strong collaboration. Of course, you have a lot of really tough issues, with poor people who need alternative sources of income. But, for the first time, we have some real traction and this is going to be something that is going to take ten years to address, but the good news is that we’ve started it now”

Raphael Manzanero, Executive Director, FCD

“It is an activity that is, certainly, in the country of Belize we don’t really know so much about the trafficking of wild animals, but as we can determine in Chiquibul there is the activity of pet trade and illegal trafficking. What we will try to do is to put interventions in Belize and also across the Guatemalan landscape, so that anybody who is identified or might be able to escape then the Guatemalan authorities will be able to address and then detain that person out there. The particular species that we will be targeting is the Scarlet Macaws as the primary ones, and then the parrots- about eight species of parrots. Also, the howler monkeys and the spider monkeys, and the three species of cats, particularly, the Jaguar.”

Andrea Polanco

“Talk to us about the specific measures that will be put in place?”

Raphael Manzanero

Raphael Manzanero

“In the case of Belize, there will be three main activities of thematic areas. One is the training of the personnel on the ground, interms of the inter-intuitional coordinating and planning, which includes the BDF, police, etc. The other one is educational awareness, basically to raise awareness among the population to basically not buy the wildlife that is extracted from the jungle. And the third one is comprised of enforcement; enforcement on the ground interms of putting together a task force on the ground which would be led by the Forest Department in order to address and arrest individuals out there. On the Guatemalan side, it is much more diverse and would include three aspects that I noted, but also include sustainable livelihoods. This basically means we would work with the communities, targeted communities that are adjacent to the Belizean border, in terms of looking at other ventures where they can make a livelihood.  And the fifth one which is also important is to work with the justice system in Guatemala to ensure that the regulations are being upheld and that people can be prosecuted.” 

Channel 5