Last week the Belize government announced a very important decision for the future of animals and nature in the Central American country. The conservation area that Papiliorama Zoo (Switzerland) and Burgers’ Zoo have successfully protected for almost thirty years has been officially extended by 110 km2, or more than 15,000 football fields. Essential for the future of various endangered animal species is that the new piece of unspoilt nature forms a green bridge linking the northern and southern parts of the existing nature reserve. Current research shows that the new connection is actually used by endangered animals such as jaguars and Baird’s tapirs. Both animal parks will continue to fight together to expand the current conservation area of 355 km2–more than six times the Dutch National Park De Hoge Veluwe–with adjacent pieces of land. Over the past few decades, tens of thousands of hectares of nature have been felled directly on the borders of the reserve for the benefit of agriculture and livestock farming. The allocation of 110 km2 of land is therefore an historic step and official encouragement that the active conservation work is actually bearing fruit.
Why is the green corridor so essential?
It is fantastic news that such a large conservation area with hundreds of special animal and plant species is now included in the protected area. In addition, the new area directly connects the northern and southern parts of the protected area. Both the jaguar and the Baird’s tapir, a rare tapir subspecies, are endangered species. Research shows that there are at least 20 adult jaguars and close to 200 Baird’s tapirs living in the now protected area. In order to keep the genetic diversity of these populations as varied as possible, it is a tremendous advance that there is now unhindered contact between animals from the northern reserve and from the southern reserve. If such exchanges between two populations of an animal species can no longer take place, inbreeding poses a serious long-term threat to the future of the species in question. For the same reasons, in the Netherlands too, various nature reserves are linked to each other as much as possible, for example by purchasing land and returning it to nature, or by creating eco-systems so that exchanges between different animal populations are stimulated again.
Intensive cooperation leads to great success for nature conservation
“We are extremely proud that we are now allowed to expand the nature reserve in Belize that we have been protecting together with Papiliorama Zoo for almost 30 years with a considerable area of 110 km2,” says Burgers’ Zoo director Alex van Hooff. “Fortunately, we have had an excellent relationship with the Belize government for many years. They see that our more than thirty employees on location are working very hard around the clock and are successfully protecting nature under our care. Partly on the basis of this good relationship built on trust, we have now managed to reach an agreement with the government, some important private landowners and various NGOs (including our own NGO with which we protect nature in Belize). This step is really very important and hopeful for the future of animals and nature in Belize.”
We will continue!
Nowadays, the borders of the nature reserve are perfectly visible on Google Earth in many places: a large part of the area outside the protected conservation area has been completely deforested and destroyed. In recent decades tens of thousands of hectares of nature have literally disappeared in this way as a result of human activity. There are still some vital natural areas directly adjacent to or in the immediate vicinity of the reserve, which would be a very important addition to the existing protected territory. Essential, with a view to the survival of animals and nature in the future. That is why we continue to fight hard to settle this battle in favour of nature. Significant political steps are being taken through a special public-private partnership between the Belize government, some important private landowners, and the two animal parks with their own NGOs. However, money is also needed to manage and protect the new natural areas structurally and on the basis of good daily policy.
Visitors Mangrove contribute directly to nature conservation
In July 2017, we opened the largest covered mangrove in the world with an area of 3,000 m2. Burgers’ Mangrove is based entirely on and inspired by the conservation area in Belize. Animals such as sea cows, butterflies, crabs, birds, and fish can be discovered here. Visitors to Burgers’ Mangrove also contribute directly to nature conservation in the Central American Country. Their donations in the ‘money spinners’ at the exit yield more than 25,000 EUR a year, of which 100% goes directly to Belize, because both animal parks bear the overhead costs. In addition, visitors can become ‘Friends of Belize’ and contribute directly to the project in Belize for a minimal amount. All information can be found here>>>.