Belize has been called many things and a paradise is definitely one of them. The Belize Audubon Society (BAS) has recognized the beauty of this country and in its quest to maintain a balance between people and the environment has done so by helping to conserve the natural wildlife of Belize. The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is only one of many areas that BAS has helped to preserve. Some other reserved areas maintained by BAS are Half Moon Caye, Crooked Tree, Guanacaste National Park and the Blue Hole. To add to their long list of worthy accomplishments BAS, on September 23, 1996, held an inauguration ceremony for the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary's new kitchen, private cabin and dormitory.
The Cockscomb Basin wildlife Sanctuary is an area of 104,000 acres of land bordered on three sides by large mountains. Victoria Peak, the country's highest point, is found in this area. This area is a home for many species such as the Tapir, Jaguar, Puma, Paca and over 290 different species of birds, including the national bird of Belize, the Keel-billed Toucan. The Sanctuary can be reached by a six mile entrance road from the village of Maya Center in the Stann Creek District. With the opening of the new dormitory and kitchen people can visit the Sanctuary and enjoy these facilities while spending time among the lush green forests and fascinating animals of the area. Camping is still available for those who wish to do so but for those who are not eager to brave the wild, a dormitory room can be rented for $15 Bz for Belizeans/$15US for foreigners.
This great accomplishment could not have been possible without the assistance of others such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Natural Resource Management and Protection Project (NARMAP), responsible for donating the dorm & kitchen facilities, Raleigh International and The British High Commission, responsible for building and funding the private cabin.
Present at the inauguration ceremony were the British High Commissioner, His Excellency Gordon Baker, Ms. Lucy Varcoe, Expedition Leader for Raleigh in Belize and the other 17 members of the Raleigh expedition, Mr. Ernesto Saqui, Director of the Cockscomb Basin and Chairman of Maya Center Mrs. Claudia Saqui Chairwoman of the Maya Center Woman's Group, other invited guests and various members of the media. The Mistress of Ceremonies was Mrs. Therese Rath of Pelican Beach Resort. Mrs. Claudia Saqui, who read the welcome address, said that she was pleased to know the land her Mayan ancestors did such a good job of preserving was going to continue to be protected by organizations like BAS and caring surrounding communities such as Maya Center.
The Keynote Address was given by His Excellency, Mr. Gordon Baker. Mr. Baker spoke of the wonderful relationship that ensued between the commision and Raleigh International because of the Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary project. He also said that he was looking forward to continuing his relationship with Raleigh and to assist in the realization of other worthy projects. Ms. Lucy Varcoe, Raleigh expedition leader in Belize, said that the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary was one of her favorite projects and that she was grateful to the British High Commissioner for providing the funding for the private cabin and giving Raleigh the opportunity to be a part of the Cockscomb project. Ms. Varcoe went on to explain that Raleigh is a youth development charity that works to improve the venturers, contributing manual labour to the projects and bettering communities. Ms. Varcoe urged Belizean youths from 17 to 25 years of age to become involved in Raleigh; information or application forms can be obtained in Ladyville at the Raleigh Base (025-2602) or from Diane Hall at the Ministry of Youth. She said suitable persons should be 17 to 25 years old, speak English and be able to swim 200 yards.
The Vote of Thanks was given by Mr. Ernesto Saqui. He stressed the importance of supporting organizations that promote conservation such as BAS and said "If the wildlife knew how important today was they would be seated next to us." After lunch people who were interested in strolling along the trails were escorted by designated tour guides. The trails were recently improved by the Raleigh venturers while they were at the Sanctuary. Mr. Saqui encouraged Belizeans to visit the Cockscomb - for a small fee, that is used to maintain the surroundings, they can enjoy the beauty of their country.