Belizeans are very proud of our country’s wildlife protection efforts. But what many people may not know is there are people illegally selling our wildlife and taking them across the border to Guatemala. It’s a lucrative trade with a single scarlet macaw fetching up to four thousand dollars. The trafficking is having an impact on bird populations in the region, since research show that only one thousand of these birds exists in the wild across three countries. Of that number, Belize reportedly has a population of three hundred and fifty scarlet macaws which is depleting due to poaching. Friends for Conservation and Development has launched an effort to partner with Guatemalan counterparts to try and end the illegal trade. Executive Director Rafael Manzanero spoke to News Five about the reconstituting of the Illegal Wildlife Trafficking Taskforce.
Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director, F.C.D.
“What this taskforce basically means is more specific activities in terms of generating information, identifying the hot spots and routes where illegal wildlife trafficking occurs and how to mitigate that. So it really more a coordinating mechanism. While on the ground there are still on-going patrols. So this is more the mechanism in terms of planning, orienting actions on the ground both in Belize and Guatemala. It becomes relevant because what we see here in Belize in terms of loses, we will not really comprehend fully who are the people involved behind the scenes and also how they operate. What are their routes of transportation of this wildlife species? Where does it end? Does it really stay in Guatemala or are thy exported out of the country? What are the numbers that reach in Guatemala so that we will know for certain that are basically extracted out of Belize. I can tell you that our interventions are working but we are still missing some of the methodologies of what we need to do. One of this is because we don’t fully comprehend how these people these illicit activities. So the information sharing is really important.”
The F.C.D. estimates that up to twenty macaws were trafficked out of the Chiquibul in 2020. That is an estimated eighty thousand dollars value in trafficked macaws.