What is the origin of your innovation? Tell the Changemakers and media communities what prompted you to start this initiative.
The mission of PfB is to link conservation of tropical forest with the development of sustainable land uses which leave the forest and its environmental values intact. To this end, long-term programs implemented on the RBCMA include: land acquisition, resource protection, scientific research, community outreach, environmental education, ecotourism, sustainable timber harvest and harvest of non-timber products.
Of the several sustainable land uses which PfB is implementing on the RBCMA, ecotourism is given high priority because it has demonstrated the potential to contribute a significant source of operating revenue for the RBCMA and PfB, while simultaneously promoting the conservation mission of PfB by providing substantial opportunities and arenas for natural history and cultural education and interpretation.
PfB’s experience in ecotourism commenced in 1992 hosting educational groups through a partnership with a U.S.-based non-profit organization. Education and interpretation have been central elements of the development of tourism on the RBCMA. Every year, approximately 400 international students participate in PfB’s forest ecology courses and about 300 Belizean students and 40 researchers visit the RBCMA. These statistics substantiate PfB’s success in linking visitation with environmental education and on-going scientific research being carried out on the RBCMA.
PfB’s ecotourism operation has several objectives: (i) developing sustainable tourism which will provide a consistent stream of income that can be applied to the conservation, protection and management of the RBCMA; (ii)providing visitors with an exceptional forest experience which integrates visitation with environmental education, thereby facilitating a deepened understanding of the real issues surrounding conservation of the world's tropical forests; and (iii) participating in the economic and social development of the greater Rio Bravo area by incorporating the buffer-zone communities in PfB’s ecotourism activities.
The primary reason for the existence of PfB was to enable the purchase, protection, conservation and management of the RBCMA. Since the inception of PfB in 1988, the RBCMA has grown to 260,000 acres of land. The RBCMA is the largest private reserve and the second largest single protected area in Belize. The RBCMA therefore plays a significant part in biodiversity conservation on a national scale in Belize.
The RBCMA’s linkage to neighboring protected areas creates a critical corridor connecting Belize with the forests of the Peten and south-east Mexico, thereby multiplying the returns to conservation. The RBCMA is bounded on the west by the Maya Biosphere Reserve (Peten, Guatemala) and on the north by the Aguas Turbias National Park in Belize which is contiguous to the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve (Campeche, Mexico). The Maya Biosphere Reserve and the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve form a single protected area complex covering over 1.7 million hectares. The RBCMA forms a natural extension of this area, extending coverage to over 1.8 million hectares and is therefore part of the largest protected area complex in Central American and one of the most important in the Neotropics.
The extent of the landscape, its connectivity with the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, through the Maya Biosphere Reserve and Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, and its management has made it possible for the RBCMA to have the highest density of Jaguars in Belize and perhaps the region. It was rated the best managed protected area under the recent assessment within the National Protected Area System Project. Due to its rich diversity, efficient protection and a healthy prey base, the RBCMA has been selected as the release site for the restoration of the globally threatened Harpy Eagle (Harpia Harpyja) in 2005.