Group Title: Report on 10 Years of Activities in Belize
Title: Report on 10 Years of Activities in Belize (Central America) : a synthesis of the background, aims, and achievements and prospects of the International Tropical Conservation Foundation and the Shipstern Nature Reserve
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 Material Information
Title: Report on 10 Years of Activities in Belize (Central America) : a synthesis of the background, aims, and achievements and prospects of the International Tropical Conservation Foundation and the Shipstern Nature Reserve
Physical Description: Archival
Language: English
Creator: Bijlveld, Caspar
McField, Melanie
Publisher: International Tropical Conservation Foundation
Shipstern Nature Reserve
Place of Publication: Neuchatal, Switzerland
Corozal District, Belize
Publication Date: June, 2000
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00099045
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.


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A publication of the International Tropical Conservation Foundation

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I Introduction

1990-2006 A touch of history:
From the mountains of Switzerland
to the northern plains of Belize.

How does a small Swiss and European organisation
dedicated to the protection of tropical nature get
involved in Belize? The story of the International
Tropical Conservation Foundation started because of
butterflies! In 1988, the tropical butterfly garden .
Papiliorama of Marin/NeuchAtel in Switzerland opened
its doors to the public. For the first time in Swiss
history, the public had the opportunity to admire live
tropical butterflies flying under an artificial dome, even
during snowy winters. Papiliorama has become a
major tourist attraction in Switzerland and has
welcomed over 3'350'000 visitors since its
inauguration. In 1995, it was completely destroyed by aa Sws T l
Papiliorama Swiss Tropical Gardens /
fire but was rebuilt and re-opened in September of that Kerzers, Switzerland.
same year, just a few months after its sister-exhibit, the
Nocturama, had been inaugurated. This latest addition to Papiliorama, built also in the shape of a bio-
dome, offers visitors a unique opportunity to walk through a tropical american forest at night...but
during daytime! This was achieved by artificially reversing the day/night cycle. Many animals that live
in the Nocturama are also found in Belize. In 2003, the Papiliorama Swiss Tropical Gardens moved
to Kerzers, near Bern, the capital of Switzerland.

From the very beginning, the main objectives behind the creation of the Papiliorama-Nocturama
tropical gardens have been to allow European visitors to catch a glimpse of the astounding diversity
of animal and plant life found in the tropics. Of course, one may argue that many books and films
about tropical forests are readily available. However, is there anything like experiencing it for
oneself ? In 1995, the Papiliorama-Nocturama Charitable Foundation was created. Its objectives
remained unchanged, albeit now applied on a nation-wide basis. Since its creation, the Papiliorama-
Nocturama Foundation has offered free guided tours through its expositions to more than 10'000
schoolchildren. During such tours, children are taught why it is so important to save tropical nature
and biodiversity, although they are many thousands
of miles away.

Displaying tropical biodiversity in a living museum
has helped to raise the awareness of its importance
for the planet's natural balance. However, from the
beginning, another step was deemed essential: a
concrete contribution towards the protection of nature
in tropical countries, where financial means for
conservation are often lacking. In late 1989, the
Papiliorama Foundation was offered the unique
opportunity of purchasing a large parcel of pristine
land in Northern Belize. To this end, as well as for
legal reasons, a new sister-foundation was
created under the name of:
Papiliorama: a tropical garden... a snowy country. The INTERNATIONAL TROPICAL

II Preserving Biodiversity

1990 : Shipstern Nature Reserve

In 1990, the newly created ITCF, with very little funds to start with, obtained a substantial loan from
the Papiliorama Foundation, which allowed the acquisition of a large parcel of land in the south-
eastern part of the Corozal District. This land, which lies south of the Chunox-Sarteneja road, was
previously owned by a British Limited Company which partly managed the area as a private reserve.
Known then as the Shipstern Wildlife Preserve, the name was changed into Shipstern Nature
Reserve. Simultaneously, the Shipstern Nature Reserve (Belize) Limited (non profit company) was
created to hold the land and manage the reserve.

Shipstern Nature Reserve was soon to play a key-role in the network of
Belizean protected areas. Although the northern part of Belize (east of
.. the northern highway) contains large forested areas teaming with
wildlife, it is unfortunately one of the least protected parts of Belize. The
importance of the reserve's geographical position within the national
network was soon to be enhanced by the discovery of an astounding
flora and fauna, unique or very rare for Belize.

The reserve covers 22'000 acres (approx. 9'000 hectares) and consists
of two parts. It is covered for one third by the Shipstern Lagoon, one
third by dwarf mangroves and saline wetlands and, finally, one third by
tropical forest. Shipstern Lagoon is very shallow, never exceeding 2-3 ft
in depth, and dotted by many mangrove islands, some of which support
colonies of various bird species (see below).

The very rare palm Numerous forest "islands"
Pseudophoenix amidst vast areas of dwarf
sargentii sargentii mangroves and saline
wetlands give Shipstern.... -
Nature Reserve its special touch. This "savannah", as it is
locally known, is covered with many animal tracks, the soft
and swampy earth recording all animals passages, mostly
between forest islands. Visitors can easily see tracks of
deer, puma, jaguar, tapir etc...
AShipstern Lagoon, with Seaman's Caye
in the background.

The forests of Shipstern Nature Reserve and those found
around Sarteneja Village are of high conservation value,
as they are unique for mainland Belize. As a matter of
fact, a small patch of tropical dry forest, not exceeding 20
km2 (12 sq. miles), occurs in the area, half of which is to be
found within the reserve's boundaries. This forest belongs
to a type found further North in Yucatan, Mexico, and is
Forest a islands > generally referred to as "low deciduous forest with
amidst saline wetlands. Pseudophoenix sargentii". Pseudophoenix sargentii is a
palm tree resembling a small royal palm. In addition, many

Shipstern Nature Reserve
Corozal District (South-East)
Belize, Central America


other plant species grow only in this forest type and are unique
for Belize. Furthermore, the distribution of this forest is very
patchy throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, and therefore very
vulnerable to destruction. This forest type occurs, as far as it is
known, only in the following areas :

> in the Bacalar Chico
National Park and
Marine Reserve, on
Mangrove wetland with sedges Ambergris Caye.
> near Tulum, where it is -
threatened by urbanisation for mass-tourism
> near Cancun and Merida, both in small patches.

This patchy distribution is, as yet, poorly understood. This forest .
type seems only to establish itself when a conjunction of various Shipstern Lagoon
factors (such as very low rainfall, poor soils, proximity to the sea,
etc.) occurs.

1990 : inauguration of The Chiclero Botanical Trail

In 1990, a botanical trail was added to the reserve's
visitor's centre. This 0.5 mile trail, named in honour
of the chicle gatherers, loops around the
headquarters through various vegetation formations,
such as deciduous dry forest, swamp forests and
semi-evergreen yucatan forest. Originally, the trail
included approximately 40 species, labelled with
scientific and Mayan names. Today, following
several botanical studies, this number now exceeds
a hundred. Many plant species of Shipstern Nature
Reserve are new for Belize, which is not surprising
considering that the area had never been thoroughly
investigated. A few of these Yucatan plant species
are found, on mainland Belize, only in Shipstern
Nature Reserve and the surroundings of Sarteneja The beginning of the Chiclero Botanical Trail, close
to the headquarters of Shipstern Nature Reserve.

1991 : the American Woodstork returns

The reserve manager and staff, while flying over the reserve in
February 1991, discovered a mangrove island in the middle of
the reserve, covered with white birds! An expedition to the
lagoon, organised shortly afterwards, uncovered a fairly large
and newly established colony of the American Woodstork, on
an island locally known as Seaman's Caye. This large bird was
once common in Belize, but its populations had been seriously
depleted by people harvesting the unfledged young, which were
often sold on markets as "lagoon chicken". Albeit the species
has been under protection for quite some years, its populations
are only slowly recovering. Soon after this encouraging
Seaman's Caye with a speckling of discovery, action was taken to ensure that the newly

woodstorks, as seen from the air in 1992


established colony would not be disturbed
again. A camp was set-up in a nearby forest
island on the shore of the lagoon, which was
baptised Iguana Camp. This camp allowed for a
round the clock watch of the birds, from
January until June, when all young are fully '
fledged. This protection programme was initially
sponsored by the newspaper of NeuchAtel,
Switzerland, for three years, after which the
protection of the woodstorks was included in
the yearly budget of the Shipstern Nature American woodstorks flying over the
Reserve. In 1999, funds provided by the Shipstern Nature Reserve colony
Northern Biological Corridor Project allowed for
a complete renovation of the site. A two-storey building has replaced the original hut, providing
decent habitation to the wardens who live at the camp for a period of 6 month every year. It also
includes rooms for tourists who wish to stay an overnight at the camp, a kitchen, a bathroom with
shower and a composting toilet. Today, the woodstork colony is still growing, totalling approximately
500-600 birds. This growth demonstrated the value of full-time protection in the frontline of
conservation. A second island was colonised in 1998, the number of breeding pairs in the whole
colony now probably exceeding 300. The main colony is expected to "bud" again soon into a third
colony on another island.

1994 : Shipstern Nature Reserve enlarged with the Xo-Pol area

IE ,In 1994, the Swiss Doron Prize received by
the President of the ITCF to honour his lifelong
commitment towards conservation enabled the
Foundation to purchase 600 hectares (approx.
1500 acres) of land to the West of Shipstern
Nature Reserve. This area, known as the Xo-
Pol parcels, is a very important addition
towards Shipstern Nature Reserve, as several
freshwater bodies occur within its boundaries.
Many animals (such as Tapir, Jaguar, Ocelot
and Deer among others) use these ponds and
marshes as drinking places, while bird species
such as the White Ibis, the Woodstork and
The observatory at the Xo-Pol ponds, within the 600
acres parcel, now part of Shipstern Nature Reserve

many others use them as feeding grounds. A
fairly large population of Morelets crocodiles also
inhabit the Xo-Pol ponds, and this has
contributed towards its success among visitors.
A tree-top observatory funded by the Swiss
Agency for Cooperation and Development (DDC)
has been constructed on the western shore of
the main pond and allows visitors to quietly
watch the abundant wildlife, without causing

The view from the observatory. The Xo-Pol ponds
harbour over 40 specimens of Morelet Crocodile,
according to the latest estimations

1996 : Bacalar Chico National Park & Marine Reserve created

Fernando Alamilla, a fisherman of Sarteneja Village, expressed, as early as 1992, the idea to see the
Bacalar Chico region developed into a National Park and Marine Reserve. This area, encompassing
the whole of the northern part of Ambergris Caye up to the
Mexican border, includes many different habitats such as
tropical forests, island lagoons and coral reefs. Its near pristine
condition made it a favourite spot for tourists to be taken to. Mr.
Alamilla had been doing so for many years and was thus in a
position to raise the alarm when the site became seriously
depleted because of overfishing.
What was at first a dream soon became a serious project: the
ITCF started assisting the Belize Coastal Zone Unit in the
establishment of a protected area in and around the Bacalar
Chico region. After several months of negotiations, a grant
obtained from the European Union
provided funds for the first three
years of a project prepared by the
Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Coastal Zone Management Program
Reserve, protecting the northern part of in collaboration with the Fisheries
the Belizean Barrier Reef. and Forestry Departments of Belize.
The ITCF channelled the funds through
to Belize, while also providing technical assistance and administrative
support through its permanent representative in the country. The Bacalar
Chico National Park and Marine Reserve was declared open on the 23rd of
August, 1996. Less than a year later, it was also included in the Belizean
network of the UNESCO World Heritage
Sites. Presently, the ITCF is a member of

Committee and maintains close links with Corals in the Bacalar
the reserve staff. Because all of the Chico Marine Reserve
beachfront property was privately owned,
the reserve staff had to build their headquarters on the lagoon side
of the island on national lands within the reserve. In 1997, ITCF
assisted the reserve by purchasing a parcel of beachfront property.
RockyPoint,wherethe land With the assistance of Raleigh International, a rangers
and the reef meet...
headquarters with dock and lookout tower was built on this
property. ITCF is further promoting the reserve and the
development of eco-tourism in the area by constructing a large screened "sleeping porch" on the
property to accommodate overnight visitors to the reserve..

1999 Helping the Saltwater Crocodile

Belize is recently emerging as being the last refuge for the endangered
Morelet Crocodile (Crocodylus moreleti). The species is now officially
protected, and populations are recovering well, as shown by the large
numbers found in the Xo-Pol part of Shipstern Reserve. The other
Belizean crocodile species, the Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) is
also protected by the laws of Belize. However its populations, as scientific
studies have shown, do not seem to be recovering as well as those of the
Morelet's Crocodile. In 1999, the Belize Saltwater Crocodile Recovery
Programme was set-up in conjunction with the Belize Crocodile Creche of Young saltwater crocodile
at the Belize Crocodile
Sarteneja. Creche of Sarteneia

The principles behind the Belize Saltwater Crocodile Recovery Programme are very simple. Mortality
among hatchlings being extremely high because of natural predators, it surmised that the remaining
populations may be too low to allow for proper recovery. Under the Programme, hatchlings are being
collected in various lagoons on the Belizean reef, mostly in the Turneffe Islands. The hatchlings are
cared for during a period of approximately 2 years at the Belize Crocodile Creche, whereafter, the
then 3-4 ft long crocodiles, being large enough to defend themselves against predators, are released
at the original site of capture. In 1999, 35 hatchlings were caught and these are growing steadily.
Their release is expected to happen in 2001.

The ITCF, having consulted specialists on crocodile matters, committed itself to support this original
project for a period of five years, whereafter the Saltwater Crocodile populations are hoped to be
viable on the long term without external help.

III Community Involvement

1990-2006 Saving biodiversity creating

The number of staff employed at Shipstern Nature Reserve has
been growing steadily since 1990. Starting with one manager and
two wardens in 1990, the staff now comprises a field manager
and five wardens. "Warden" is employed here in a general sense,
as all personnel are skilled to take part in patrols, guided tours, The wardens of
maintenance of building, Shipstern Nature Reserve
gardening, tree nursing,
reforestation and, for some of them, mechanics and other vehicle

Shipstern Nature Reserve has benefitted Sarteneja village in
many ways. Much of the monthly budget is spent in the village on
supplies and specialised skills such as tire repair, outboard
A Belizean schoolclass visiting maintenance, welding, building construction, transportation, etc.
the butterfly facility
Restaurants, bars and hotel facilities in Sarteneja benefit from visitors
coming to the area to visit Shipstern Nature Reserve. The reserve's headquarters does not provide
accommodations for tourists, except for visiting scientists working in the reserve. See below for a
detailed account on conservation and tourism.

1992 : PACES created

In 1992, members of the fishing community of Sarteneja
interested in environmental issues decided to create, under
the impetus of Auriol Samos, Servando Samos and Fernando
Alamilla, a group named "Protecting And Conserving the
Environment of Sarteneja (PACES)".
Bird roost in Sarteneja Harbour: The ITCF, much in favour of such initiatives, has made
how a simple solution solves a possible many activities of PACES since its creation in 1992.
conflict between birds and fishermen

The creation of PACES was originally motivated by a conflict between roosting birds and fishermen.
Many cormorants, terns, bitterns and sea gulls roost at night in the harbour of Sarteneja, and up to
1992, used fishermen's boats as perches. The bird's droppings being poorly appreciated, the conflict
between birds and fishermen, quite logically, grew stronger every year. As a first project, PACES
decided to build bird roosts constructed with palm trunks and sticks. These were quickly accepted and
much appreciated by the birds. An excellent example of how a simple solution can solve a seemingly
difficult problem.

The ITCF has, over the past few years, financially supported several PACES projects, such as :

-the upkeep of the bird roosting sites in Sarteneja Bay (ongoing);
-the PACES garbage project, which consisted in a thorough clean-up of the roadsides in and
around Sarteneja, together with the creation of a rubbish pit and signs leading to it (1997);
-the creation of a small library with nature-books, available to pupils of the Sartenejan schools
-a small poster campaign in Sarteneja and in Chunox, explaining the benefit of protected areas in
the sustainable management of wildlife and nature in general (1997).

In coming year, it is hoped that PACES projects will once more concentrate on the garbage issue, as
well as the needed repairs of bird roosts.

1996 : the Jose Durantes Prize

All staff members, both in Belize and in Europe, were shocked by the death
of Shipstern Nature Reserve warden Jose Durantes in the autumn of 1996.
Jose Durantes, barely 22 years old when he passed away, started working
for Shipstern Nature Reserve when he was only 16. He soon became a true
nature-lover and a much appreciated guide by those visitors who had the
chance to explore the reserve with him. In addition to losing a skilled
JosDurates colleague, many of us also lost a friend.
warden of
Shipstern Nature In the hope of perpetuating his memory, the ITCF decided to create
Reserve the "Jose Durantes Prize". Every year, Sartenejan pupils moving on
towards 6th form join a literary contest, the subject of which deals with
environmental matters. The winner receives a BZ$ 250.- contribution towards the costs of books
needed in his first year at high school. Other participants are rewarded with various prizes, such as
books dealing with tropical nature. The Jose Durantes Prize was awarded last in 2001.

1997: Tourism and Conservation
Sarteneja as an example of true eco-tourism ?

Eco-tourism is a popular definition for tourism related to nature
conservation. However, the word is often misused, as many
standard tourism activities are designated as being eco-
touristic. Eco-tourism should be understood as tourism
activities that benefit both nature and local tourism industries.
In other words, protected areas attract visitors, while the latter
make use of hotels and other facilities in the vicinity. This
basic principle has led the ITCF to stop welcoming overnight
tourism at the reserve headquarters and visitors are now
encouraged to stay in Sarteneja Village. The idea, however,
originally met with a challenging problem : the lack of tourism
facilities in the village.
Fernando's Seaside Guesthouse's
The ITCF decided to encourage low-scale, bed & breakfast first room, during construction

type, family-run tourism by implementing
several projects in Sarteneja Village. Early
1997, a Small Embassy Project grant was
obtained from the Embassy of the Netherlands
in Mexico in order to help the setup of the first
two bed & breakfast projects. In a record time of
5 months, the "Fernando Seaside Guesthouse"
and the "El Sayab Cabana & Restaurant"
opened their doors. Both facilities were
inaugurated by the Consul of the Netherlands in
Belize, the Minister of Tourism and the Area
Representative. A second project, the
"Candelie's Guesthouse and Diner" was made
Fernando Alamilla, on his way to Bacalar Chico possible through a special ITCF loan. This
guesthouse has started operating in 2000.

The ITCF is now working on the integration of these facilities within the network of Belizean tourism
operations. A Northern Tour, including remote and less visited sites such as Shipstern Nature
Reserve, the Sarteneja area, Chetumal Bay and Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve,
will start soon, with the aim of attracting, in addition to North American tourists, visitors from Europe
interested in nature and conservation. Direct financial contributions towards the protected areas
visited will be included in the price of the tour.

1999-2000 the Sarteneja National Tree Park

The early nineties saw the acquisition by ITCF of approx. 25
acres of forests to the south-west of Sarteneja Village, with the
aim of saving one of the last stands of larger Mahogany trees in
the area. For many years, the idea of creating a small park
dedicated to the National Tree of Belize was nurtured. Today the
Sarteneja National Tree Park is a reality. Sponsored once again
by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Mexico, the Park is now
open to villagers during the week-ends, and for schools and
tourists upon appointment with the reserve staff. The Park has a
u i loop trail leading to the larger Mahogany trees, including a tree
nicknamed "Big George", which is the tallest and most beautiful
among them. This tree is also regularly used as a seed-producer
for small reforestation projects in and around Shipstern Nature

Melanie McField, ITCF representative
in Belize and Juan Aldana,
Shipstern's former station manager,
in front of a Big George n, the
largest Mahogany tree of the
Sarteneja National Tree Park

A small museum completes the park, where the "
history, biology and ecology of the Mahogany tree The National Tree Museum, close to Sarteneja Village
are presented, together with many objects, such
as dry seeds, raw lumber and handicrafts made of Mahogany. The precarious status of this over-
exploited tree is also underlined, while ways of its sustainable use, and the importance of keeping
mother-trees, are explained.

The Sarteneja National Tree Park was officially inaugurated at the end of 2000.

IV Financial summary

1989 -2006 :
global investment for
conservation and sustainable development
in Northern Belize

The International Tropical Conservation Foundation is a Swiss and European non-profit foundation
aiming to help tropical countries in developing long-term viable conservation projects, involving nature
preservation and related activities. Funds originate mainly from donations in Switzerland and the
Netherlands, and are transferred to Belize without deducting overheads. Administrative costs in
Europe are assumed by the Papiliorama-Nocturama Foundation.

1989 Land acquisition, management US$ 210'000.-

1990 Equipment, management US$ 63'700.-

1991 Equipment, management US$ 70'000.-

1992 Management US$ 56'000.-

1993 Equipment, management US$ 76'800.-

1994 Land acquisition, management US$ 152'200.-

1995 Management (part) US$ 30'000.-

1996 Bacalar Chico EU funds, through ITCF US$ 350'000.-

1996 Management US$ 56'250.-

1997 Equipment, management US$ 71'000.-

1998 Building, management US$ 75'000.-

1999 Management, various projects US$ 67'700.-

2000 Management, US$ 62'500.-

2001 Management US$ 75'000.-

2002 Management, equipment US$ 119'100.-

2003 Management US$ 65'000.-

2004 Management, land acquisition US$ 225'000.-

2005 Management, land acquisition US$ 110'000.-

2006 (expected) US$ 90'000.-

Total Belize Project 1989 2006 US$ 2'025'250.-

Shipstern Nature Reserve
Detailed yearly budget*

Object US$

Salaries (5.5 persons) and admin. costs 42'000.-

Vehicle maintenance and fuel 20'000.-

Building maintenance 3'000.-

Various equipment and maintenance 4'000.-

Insurances 1000.-

Fax & phone 1000.-

Vehicle for representative (fuel & maintenance) 2'500.-

Crocodile project 2'500.-

Contribution to touristic development 7'500.-

Sarteneja National Tree Park 2'500.-

Unforeseen 4'000.-

Total/year US$ 90'000.-

*revised average budget based on 2005-2006

IV the Future

Role in the
Northern Biological Corridor Project

Shipstern Nature Reserve has been awarded a three-year
grant of approximately US$ 27,000 as part of the
Northern Biological Corridor Project. This project aims to
conserve the biological diversity of northern Belize by

Living quarters at Iguana Camp

involving local communities in conservation
projects and supporting existing conservation
efforts with the ultimate goal of greater coordination
and ecological linkages among the region's
protected areas. The project is financed by the
Global Environmental Facility through Programme
The new guardhouse at Iguana Camp, for Belize. SNR completed the first phase,
instrumental in protecting the woodstrok colonies construction of the Iguana Camp guard house /
tourist lodging in the Shipstern Lagoon overlooking
the nesting colonies of Woodstorks, in May 2000. The second year will focus on upgrading the reserve's
visitor's center, followed by further infrastructure development in the final year.

Shipstern Nature Reserve (Belize) Limited

(non profit company)

Directors : Philip Zuniga OBE, Chairman
Belize City

Melanie McField
ITCF Permanent Representative for Belize
Belize City.

Maarten Bijleveld van Lexmond
ITCF President
NeuchAtel, Switzerland

Seat: "/o Philip Zuniga OBE,
1 South Street
Belize City.
Ph : + 501 (0)2 77075
Fax: + 501 (0)2 75771

Contact address : Mrs Sandra Zelaya

Field station : Apolonio Mai, field station manager
Shipstern Nature Reserve
Sarteneja Village
Corozal District

International Tropical Conservation Foundation

Board : Dr. Maarten Bijleveld van Lexmond, president
Geert van Mesdag, vice-president
Caspar Bijleveld van Lexmond, secretary
Prof. Dr. Philippe KUpfer
Chantal Derungs Jakob

Seat: c/o Papiliorama
P.O. Box 160
3210 Kerzers FR
Ph : + 41 (0) 31 756 04 61
Fax : + 41 (0) 31 756 04 69
e-mail :

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