Military Training, it's taking place in the jungles of Belize at any
given time and while it doesn't affect those of us in the urban
jungles, it could be having real effects on wildlife in our protected
It's a concern that was raised by a 2017 Environmental Impact
Assessment which produced a full set of compliance measures for
training within the jungles of Belize.
One of those measures is the seeking of new information through
supporting research, and that's just what BATSUB did today when they
donated a suite of wildlife capture cameras to their research Partner's
7 news attended the handing over ceremony where we found out just how
soldiers and jaguars coexist in the jungle.
The British Army Training Support Unit, or BATSUB: their presence in Belize
has varied in reason and size over the years. Once upon a time the British
Army was here to protect us from potential Guatemalan invasion but today
BATSUB is a training facility, and in recent years, jungle warfare mock
battles has been their entire reason for maintaining a base in Belize.
But while they prepare soldiers to face the world's deep, dark jungles
they've been careful to conserve the environment that's they rely on for
Lt. Col Simon Nickels - Commander of BATSUB
"BATSUB takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously. It is not
wasted on us that we are guests here in this beautiful land and that we
have to thread carefully and lightly. An environmental compliance
requirement from the DOE is to have a monitoring strategy in place to
undertake systematic recordings of wildlife in and around our live firing
ranges. DIO BATSUB have contracted with Panthera to deliver a three-year
monitoring program to test the effects of military training and
specifically live firing on the mammalian species here in Belize."
But monitoring those mammals requires specialized equipment, such as camera
traps many of which were destroyed in April's extensive forest fires.
Emma Sanchez - Research Biologist
"Camera traps are an extremely useful means of monitoring wildlife
remotely, however, while leaving them in the field as automated monitoring
devices some cameras can get stolen, waterlogged, or even lost to fires. I
want to thank BATSUB DIO in behalf of Panthera for providing us with
extremely useful replacement cameras to our project. They will be put to
good use within out monitoring program in which we continuously assess the
safety of the Belizean wildlife in the key areas within and outside the
protected area system."
And today that task got a little easier with BATSUB's donation of $6000.00
BZD worth of replacement cameras.
Lt. Col Simon Nickels
"These cameras funded by the United kingdom Ministry of defence, defence
infrastructure organization oversees stewardship fund replace those that
have been lost in the recent wildfires and will enable Pantera to continue
it's valuable work. Presenting these replacement cameras for the ones lost
in the wildfires is a sign of our commitment and continued support to the
environmental conservation here in Belize."
It's a gesture that the scientists from Panthera greatly appreciated
"Apart from Pantera carrying out the monitoring project of life firing by
training troops, I can say the relationship has grown beyond this
assessment, we view BATSUB DIO as a committed conservation partner
providing considerable logistical support and information to government and
the wider conservation community in general. The British Army is a valuable
partner in Belize's conservation efforts and hope that our collaboration
will continue into perpetuity."
It's a symbiotic relationship for the vulnerable creatures of Belize and
the formidable British army, both of whom have learned to thrive in
Belize's stunning forests.
Lt Col Nichols also highlighted BATSUB's tree planting efforts, using
air assets to compile environmental records on behalf of the DOE.
BATSUB Donates Motion Sensor Cameras to Help Jaguar Conservation!
Today, the British Army Training Support Unit Belize invited the press to share how they are championing environmental stewardship in Belize. BATSUB says that while they have a permit to allow some three thousand seven hundred and fifty soldiers to train over the years they have only had two thousand five hundred soldiers a year. While those trainings include a combination of activities that at times can see the use of weapons – their activities are monitored to ensure that they are not disrupting the natural course of the environment. Reporter Andrea Polanco tells us more about how BATSUB is partnering with a jaguar conservation N.G.O. to support conservation work.
Andrea Polanco, Reporting
The British Army Training Support Unit Belize (BATSUB) has been doing military training in Belize for decades. In recent years, BATSUB trains two thousand five hundred soldiers a year. They do this in groups of one hundred and fifty up to about four hundred soldiers at a single time.
Lt. Col. Simon Nichols, Commander, BATSUB
“When they move out to the jungle locations they are – because of the nature of the jungle and the nature of jungle warfare – they are not traversing over great distances and they can’t use vehicles so it has minimal impact in terms of footprint and so they tend to stay in one or two small spaces and they are not roaming around the areas. The type of training that we do is a mixture of navigation and we do what is called dry training which is not using live ammunition, it is just simulated bangs which are much reduced. We do use some live fire but that is a very small percentage of what we do over here and when we do that we go to the utmost to ensure that things such as trees – we would use preventative measures such as sand bags or use dead fallen logs in front of the trees.”
But the research in other parts of the world shows that military trainings can alter an environment. So, do these jungle trainings interfere with Belize’s the natural environment? In 2017, BATSUB and the Defense Infrastructure Organization (DIO) completed an environmental impact assessment to find out if the military trainings affect the ecology of their training sites in Belize. They now have a three year monitoring program with PANTHERA Belize:
Lt. Col. Simon Nichols
“An environmental compliance requirement from DOE is to have a monitoring strategy in place to undertake systemic recording of wildlife in and around our live firing ranges. DIO – BATSUB have contracted with PANTHERA to deliver a three-year monitoring program to assess the effects of military training, specifically live firing, on the mammalian species here in Belize.”
Lt. Col Simon Nichols says that the first year of research shows that the military’s footprint on the environment is minimal. He notes that there is very little long term impact of military’s live firings on animals, particularly jaguars, in the jungles where they train.
Lt. Col. Simon Nichols
“There was little variations between military training locations and controlled sites for detection rates, activities patterns, species assemblies or jaguar home range patters. The research has shown that in 1963 line and Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve they are both functioning well as wildlife reserves with high species richness and abundance. From the initial comparisons it appears that in long term capacity historic use of these sites for the live firings have had a negligible effects and impact on the species, ecology, and behavior within these sites.”
But these training areas, for example in the Cockscomb Basin range, are also home to a number of animals including wild cats – and so these are monitored by Panthera-Belize. The N.G.O. promotes the conservation of the wild cats, especially jaguars. Across the world, and even Belize, jaguar populations are in decline. So, to support management and research, Panthera-Belize installs activated camera traps to monitor the health of jaguars. But these cameras are often removed by those engaged in illicit activities or they are destroyed by other elements. So, as a part of its commitment to the environment and its partnership with PANTHERA-BELIZE, BATSUB handed over twenty new motion cameras four data storage devices to be used to monitor wildlife in some of the training areas that the British Army uses in Belize. Emma Sanchez of Panthera Belize explains how valuable these cameras are to the conservation of wildcats like jaguars.
Emma Sanchez, Research Biologist, PANTHER-BELIZE
“They can be put in the field and they are motion triggered, therefore, anything that passes in front of it, any movement is detected by the camera. So, in terms of the fauna, these cameras have settings in there to record the date and time and of course the location of where the camera is placed at. When we get the images, we are able to do a series of analysis which include checking the activity of each of the species given that we have enough sample to do that and we check the detection rates which is used sort of a proxy measure to abundance which is the number of animals within an area and for the larger cats or the large cats that are spotted, since they are individually recognized so we can do density estimates which is used in terms of management of an area. If you have a high density of the large cats meaning that would also translate that the habitat is good enough for it and also have enough prey to have that higher density.”
The value of the donation is over five thousand Belize dollars. Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.
Rare images of mountain lions, jaguars and ocelots have been captured by a British Army wildlife monitoring programme in the heart of the Belize jungle.
A British Army wildlife monitoring programme has captured incredible images of big cats in their natural habitat.
The British Army Training Support Unit Belize (BATSUB) and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) have joined forces with conservation charity Panthera to monitor and protect endangered wildlife as part of a three-year programme to ensure essential military training does not disturb local habitats.
Cameras set up to photograph the wild animals in the jungle were destroyed in fires this summer. But new cameras were purchased to continue the valuable work, capturing stunning images of rare animals in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserves - a 430 square-kilometre area roughly four times the size of Paris.
The Army’s and DIO’s unique, in-depth knowledge of the terrain meant they could set up the cameras in remote and unexplored parts of the jungle, uncovering the previously unseen movements of big cats and other wildlife in their natural habitats.
The rare images show lions, jaguars and ocelots in the heart of the Belize jungle.
Their work has confirmed training has little impact on animal roaming patterns and instead found the presence of personnel in the Belize jungle deterred illegal poaching and logging - making it a safer place for exotic wildlife such as monkeys, jaguars and tapirs.
Defence Minister Jeremy Quin said:
"The dedication and teamwork between British Army Training Support Unit Belize, Defence Infrastructure Organisation and Panthera demonstrates the diverse and far-reaching benefits of UK armed forces operating around the world."
"This is another example of the resourcefulness of our armed forces and their partners: their efforts have shown the conservation benefits of our Belize jungle training."
Panthera is dedicated to the research and conservation of big cats, with a £14 million research programme in locations across Asia, the Americas and Africa.
Panthera Lead Research Biologist Emma Sanchez said:
"I want to thank British Army Training Support Unit Belize and Defence Infrastructure Organisation on behalf of Panthera for providing the extremely useful replacements of the damaged camera units to our project."
"We value the relation with British Army Training Support Unit Belize, as an example of how an important international stakeholder collaborates with the Belizean conservation community and government of Belize in a shared responsibility and sustainable use of protected areas."
BATSUB has been present in Belize since 1994, although training paused in 2010 before restarting in 2016. Since then, BATSUB has made significant contributions to protecting the environment through monitoring wildlife, planting trees and collecting data.
In 2019, using money from the £400,000 DIO Overseas Stewardship Fund, BATSUB, the DIO and the Belize Defence Force, staff and families planted 200 trees of 18 different species in Price Barracks.
The year before, BATSUB planted local fruit-bearing species, such as mango, craboou, soursop and custard apple in the Manatee Forest Reserve. These trees were planted to support indigenous black howler monkeys and spider monkeys.
BATSUB commander Lieutenant Colonel Simon Nichols MBE said:
"We take our environmental responsibilities very seriously and we work hard to ensure that our training is conducted in accordance with the strictest Host Nation environmental policies and in tandem with our colleagues in the DoE, Forestry Department, Panthera, FCD and the many other environmental stakeholders, who work in support of environmental conservation."
"We are proud to be able to say that we have planted over 200 trees in Belize in the last 12 months, supported the Forestry Department in the recording of damage caused by the latest wildfires, using our Aviation assets, as well as disrupting illegal hunting, logging, gold-panning and narcotics-trafficking by our sheer presence out in the jungle."
DIO senior environmental adviser Richard Snow said:
"Our relationship with the Belize Government Departments, land owners and NGOs could not be stronger. We have worked together to understand the environmental importance of each jungle training area down to the finest detail, and have collaboratively developed probably the highest environmental standards for range management that the British Army applies across the world."
Operating under a memorandum of understanding and the statement of forces agreement, BATSUB has a licence to train up to 3,750 personnel per year.
The training takes place across a network of government and privately-owned land, alongside the BDF and other foreign forces.
BATSUB jungle training is unpredictable and difficult. The environment gives troops the opportunity to train in a challenging terrain and an austere environment, equipping them with transferrable skills for other environments and operations.
From: UK Ministry of Defence, Defence Infrastructure Organisation, and Jeremy Quin MP ===============