"Cross-Border Coordination to Reduce Illegal Wildlife Trade in the Guatemala-Mexico Green Corridor"
The Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR) spans 2.1 million hectares of Guatemala’s northernmost territory, equivalent to 19% of the country's land area. Along with adjoining protected areas of Belize and Mexico, it constitutes the heart of the "Selva Maya", the largest block of wilderness in Mesoamerica.
Mirador-Rio Azul National Park and the Naachtún-Dos Lagunas Biotope are two of the MBR’s most well-conserved areas; both parks remain largely free of human impacts, and thus are of great importance. They contain tall humid tropical Petén forests, as well as scrubby xeric subtropical Yucatan forests, supporting ecosystems that provide biological connectivity for fauna and flora between Mexico, Belize and Guatemala.
The protected areas of Calakmul and Balam-Ku, located in the southeastern extreme of the Mexican State of Campeche, are of equal importance to Mexico. The Calakmul Biosphere Reserve contains a mix of tall and transitional forests, with temporarily flooded, scrub/low forests and seasonal wetlands. Calakmul’s fauna includes six of the seven marsupial species registered in the country; two of the three primates; two of the four edentates; and five of the six wild felids, including jaguar and puma.
Balam-Ku State Reserve also conserves important populations of endangered species such as the jaguar, king vulture, Baird’s tapir, and agami heron; Balamku also attracts scientific and touristic attention due to the present of its emblematic bat roosting site, the cave known as the “Volcán de los Murcielagos”.
THE CHALLENGE OF ILLEGAL TRADE IN FLORA AND FAUNA: The increase in illegal logging and illegal trafficking of valuable species of precious wood (granadillo or “hormigo”, cericote, chico zapote, and mahogany) and the poaching of wildlife is affecting the protected areas of Guatemala and Mexico, including MBR in Guatemala, and the Calakmul and Balamku Reserves in Mexico. From 2018 - 2020, partners detected an increase in illegal logging all frontier protected areas. These illicit activities are being propelled by Mexican organized crime syndicates with ties to Guatemalan collaborators, who assist during sporadic raids into the Green Corridor between Guatemala and Mexico.
In response, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and national and international partners implement a project funded by the UK Government through the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund titled “Cross-Border Coordination to Reduce Illegal Wildlife Trade in the Guatemala-Mexico Green Corridor”. Project partners include, the Environmental Justice Forum of Petén, Asociación Balam, Pronatura Peninsula Yucatán, ACOFOP, FUNDAECO, CECON, CONAP, CONANP, SEMABIC, and the Ministerio Publico-MP.
1) Strengthen Patrols and Law Enforcement in Frontier Protected Areas
2) Increase Awareness regarding the Illegal Wildlife Trade
3) Propel Efficient Legal Frameworks to Reduce the Illegal Wildlife Trade
4) Promote Sustainable Livelihoods with Guatemalan and Mexican Communities
5) Consolidate a Bi-national, Multisector Network to Reduce Illegal Wildlife Trade
SOME PROJECT ADVANCES (Oct 2020)
• First meeting of the Guatemala-Mexico IWT Network was held virtually, to initiate coordination of project activities.
• We developed a baseline survey on awareness about illegal wildlife trafficking to be used with national authorities in Guatemala; the survey was tested with authorities from CONAP, DIPRONA and MINEX.
• 31 field monitoring and/or joint patrols have been carried out within Mirador-Rio Azul National Park, the Dos Lagunas Biotope, and the Paxbán forest management unit located on the Guatemala-Mexico frontier; patrols increased inter-institutional presence and covered 2,280 km. A key result consisted of the capture of 7 Mexican nationals who were poaching Hormigo trees within Mirador-Rio Azul National Park of Guatemala.
• We have developed a draft Patrol Protocol for the Guatemalan protected areas; the protocol is currently being reviewed by project partners.
• In October, 2020, we held a virtual meeting to present the project to high-level authorities in Guatemala. Participants included members of the British Embassy in Guatemala, personnel of the General Directorate of International Relations (DIGRIME) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINEX), the Deputy Executive Secretary of CONAP, the Director of International Cooperation of CONAP, and the General Commissioner of the Division for Nature Protection of the National Police (DIPRONA).
• Partners held a meeting with authorities from CONAP, Petén to evaluate an assessment of potential investments in sustainable livelihoods within MBR communities in Guatemala.