Published on August 2, 2016

Rangers on Patrol in Northern and Southern Belize

A ranger works to contain a wildfire in Belize
A ranger works to contain a wildfire in Belize

The work of rangers in Belize is to protect the land, habitat, and wildlife in conservation areas. Rangers for both the Programme for Belize (PfB) and the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) have to be skilled in wilderness patrolling and surveillance, navigation, intelligence gathering, biology, wildlife rescue and health, search and rescue, and law enforcement.

Northern Belize

In northern Belize the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area (RBCMA) is a huge tract of land, 260,000 acres: a mosaic of thick tropical forest, marshes, swamp forests, river, and two large sections of important savannah habitat. Protecting this property from fires, illegal logging and poachers is a dangerous and challenging job for the Programme for Belize rangers.

Besides combating illegal logging activities, fire detection and suppression have been a priority. Wildfire is the leading cause of forest loss in Belize.

PfB rangers monitor fires via a website that provides daily fire points. Fires that appear within and near the RBCMA boundary are studied and suppressed if needed. PfB recently invested in new fire equipment and a fire tower to assist their efforts. This year, five fires were actively suppressed. They had

PfB rangers monitor fires via a website that provides daily fire points. Fires that appear within and near the RBCMA boundary are studied and suppressed if needed. PfB recently invested in new fire equipment and a fire tower to assist their efforts. This year, five fires were actively suppressed. They had potential to cause great damage to the Rio Bravo forest and the nesting habitat of the Yellow-headed Parrot.

Southern Belize

In southern Belize, TIDE manages three protected areas: the Port Honduras Marine Reserve, Payne’s Creek National Park, and the TIDE Private Protected Lands. Rangers working in the Port Honduras Marine Reserve are focused on law enforcement. The rangers ensure that fishermen have valid licenses and are following fishing regulations. Rangers confiscate any gillnets they find and ensure that recreational visitors also respect the regulations. In Payne’s Creek National Park and the TIDE Private Protected Lands, rangers are on the lookout for illegal poaching and logging.

On land, rangers’ work is focused controlling human-caused wildfires, a major threat to the tropical pine savannah (an endangered ecosystem) in and around Payne’s Creek. The rangers attend yearly fire management training to make sure they are up-to-date with the latest techniques.

A yellow-headed parrot
A yellow-headed parrot

With the help of Mass Audubon and in partnership with the U.S. National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Everglades National Park, The Nature Conservancy, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, TIDE trained nine Belizean protected area managers to the advanced level of “burn boss,” giving them the necessary skills in prescribed fires in pine savannahs to prevent dangerous wildfires. The pine savannah is an endangered ecosystem and provides critical habitat for species such as the endangered Yellow-headed Parrot. Prescribed fires protect these areas and species by preventing more intense late-dry-season fires, enabling pine saplings to regenerate and maintaining pine snags (dead pine trees), which are the preferred nesting site for Yellow-headed Parrots.

Yellow-headed Parrots are actively sought by poachers because chicks can be sold for significant profit. Rangers from both PfB and TIDE regularly carry out assessments of the nesting sites.

Despite quite a bit of illegal entry into the savannah, constant patrolling in the areas known to be nesting sites have kept poachers from causing severe impact. Good transportation and tools are critical for rangers. In the past year, donations from the Belize Conservation Fund have allowed the Programme for Belize to purchase a much-needed Toyota Hilux (ATV truck) for ranger and staff patrols which prevented illegal loggers from benefiting from their spoils and destroyed five illegal poachers’ huts.

TIDE marine rangers pioneered the use of the SMART technology tool. SMART is Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool – a Geographic Information System software that allows conservation enforcement teams to conduct more effective patrols. By mapping illegal activities, rangers can target patrols to the places and times they are most needed. TIDE rangers can now monitor the movements of potential poachers, as well as protected species of interest such as manatees, dolphins, and big cats.

Monitoring bird nests and habitats and stopping poachers, illegal loggers, and wildfires are just three of the many jobs that rangers in Belize must do. Help us help them by making a gift today.