Thirty-Four Iguanas Released into the Wild
Punta Gorda Town - Thursday, March 15, 2007

On the afternoon of Wednesday, March 14th 2007, residents of Big Falls Village, a community in the Toledo District that buffers one of the protected areas managed by TIDE, alerted TIDE rangers of suspected illegal activities taking place along the Rio Grande River.

The TIDE rangers acted quickly and requested the assistance of the Belize Defense Force to conduct a joint patrol in search of the suspects. The individuals were said to be camping in an area that is part of TIDE's Private Lands Initiative - a program wherein lands are purchased and set aside for conservation in perpetuity for the people of Belize. These lands have strict laws governing hunting, fishing and logging, and are managed as protected areas.

The team of TIDE rangers and BDF officers came upon the camp and were able to detain one man who tried to flee in his boat, and who identified himself as being from Chiquimula, Guatemala - a long way from where he was captured. At least four other individuals fled the scene and were able to escape capture through the bushes. The men had set up a hunting camp and had already captured and tied up some thirty-four small and large iguanas, including many females ready to lay their eggs.

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Iguana hunting is illegal in Belize if the hunter does not have a license or is hunting for commercial purposes, or if the person is not a resident of Belize. However, all hunters are encouraged to leave females alone during the egg-laying season to allow them to reproduce - they usually lay their eggs during the first two weeks in March.

The one individual who was caught was handed over to the Punta Gorda Police, and the seized boat was handed over to the Forestry Department, who are tasked with bringing the case to court. Once the evidence was photographed and accounted for, TIDE's rangers, along with its Executive Director Ms. Celia Mahung, and Development Director Mr. Jonathan Labozzetta, carried the iguanas back to the Rio Grande where they were carefully untied and released back into the wild. It was a rewarding experience for the rangers who had just recently completed their special constable training that earned them the power of arrest for illegal activities. And it was rewarding for all involved that the 34 iguanas were still alive and were safely released.

TIDE is grateful to the residents of Big Falls for notifying us of the potential crime, and to the authorities for their speedy response that led to the capture and arrest of a man suspected of conducting illegal activities.

TIDE advises everyone to observe the rules and regulations for protected areas.

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TIDE is a non-profit, non-government organization whose mission is to foster community participation in natural resource management and sustainable use of the ecosystems of the Maya Mountain Marine Corridor in Southern Belize for the benefit of present and future generations.