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Preserving Wildlife Connectivity & Enhancing Human Development: Print E-mail
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Written by The Guardian   
Thursday, 20 February 2014 14:54

Belmopan, Belize
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish and protect Belize’s biological corridors and core areas that function as habitat for jaguars and their prey will be signed at 10 a.m. on Friday February 21, at the Black Orchid Resort, Burrell Boom Village, Belize District.

Signatories to the MOU will include the Government of Belize, through the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries, and Sustainable Development, the University of Belize through its Environmental Research Institute (ERI), and Panthera.

The ERI, is dedicated to the science and conservation of natural resources and the development of Belizean human capacity. Panthera is a global non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of wild cat species and their habitats, with a long history of jaguar conservation efforts in Belize and the Mesoamerican region. The jaguar, because of its mobility and sensitivity to human presence, along with its ecological function and its role in human culture, can provide an effective focus for monitoring the integrity of core areas and for corridor identification and conservation.

Belize protects two large forest blocks (i.e., the Maya Mountain Massif in the south and the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area in the north) that function as core areas for the long-term conservation of Belize’s forest resources, wildlife, and ecological services. Parties to the MOU have agreed to establish and develop programs of cooperation in consultation with stakeholders, develop strategies for biological corridors in Belize that would serve to connect the core natural areas; promote the conservation of the corridors’ biological diversity, the maintenance of the vital functions of the corridor-and-core ecosystem and their integrated management.

Another notable feature of the MOU is to ensure that proposed corridors remain ecologically functional as well as supportive of the people, communities, and livelihoods of the residents of these areas. Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative is doing just that by connecting and protecting core jaguar populations from Mexico to Argentina within human landscapes, while strategically balancing and supporting sustainable and economic human developments and mitigating human-jaguar conflict in these regions.

Panthera has partnered with ERI to assure capacity building of Belizeans in the field of wildlife research, in particular jaguar research and conservation, and develop new collaborations with NGOs to assess the abundance and distribution of jaguars throughout Belize. The ERI, the Ministry and Panthera have also worked together towards corridor conservation in Belize, with Panthera supporting wildlife biologists at the ERI and a Jaguar Officer at the Ministry’s Forest Department.

Through this partnership, Panthera has agreed to support the Ministry and ERI in securing funds for the management, monitoring and research within the area of common interest; whenever possible, the parties will seek external funding through cooperative proposals. 

Signing on behalf of the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries, and Sustainable Development, will be the Minister, the Hon. Senator Lisel Alamilla, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, Panthera’s Chief Executive Officer, and Acting President, the University of Belize, Dr Wilma Wright.