Waterfall in the Maya Forest
Success Stories

The Maya Forest

A diverse conservation coalition unites to save big cats

The Belize Maya Forest is part of a 38-million-acre tropical forest network called the Selva Maya that spans Belize, northern Guatemala and southeastern Mexico. It is one of the world’s largest remaining tropical rainforests outside the Amazon and one of the few places on Earth where charismatic megafauna still roam. Some of Central America’s largest remaining populations of Jaguar, Puma, Margay and other native cats depend on this forest for their survival.

Rainforest Trust is part of a formidable coalition of NGOs, government, community leaders and businesses that joined forces to successfully protect 236,000 acres of the Belize Maya Forest. The new protected area nearly doubles the size of the adjacent Rio Bravo Conservation Management Area, securing a vital wildlife corridor in Central America’s threatened forests equivalent to 9% of Belize’s entire landmass.

Jaguar in Belize

Belize Maya Forest Jaguar

A vital corridor now links critical habitat in the vast Selva Maya

The big cats of the Belize Maya Forest live among an extraordinary diversity of flora and fauna, including 200 species of trees in tropical forest, pine savanna and wetland ecosystems, and over 400 species of birds, 100 of which are migratory. Tapir, howler monkeys and spider monkeys also thrive here. But this biodiversity hotspot faces mounting threats.

For over a decade, the Maya Forest Corridor—a strip of critically important connecting forest between the Maya Mountain Massif and the Belize Maya Forest—has experienced deforestation at a rate four times the national average, losing more than 65% of its forest cover to land-clearing for industrial-scale farms and sugar cane plantations, illegal logging and forest fires. Pesticide use and illegal trafficking of rare animals put species at further risk of extinction.

Protecting rainforests is a powerful tool in fighting climate change

Conservation of rainforests is one of the leading natural solutions to climate disruption. The Belize Maya Forest stores an estimated 13 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent, equal to 30 million barrels of oil being consumed.

With 236,000 acres of imperiled tropical rainforest now protected, a secure corridor links vital habitat in a larger stronghold for rare species in Belize—a country that leads the world in conservation with 40% of Belize’s landmass under some form of protection. The climate and social benefits of this project to the people of Belize and to the world make this project a win-win on a global scale, and Rainforest Trust is proud to have played an important role in its success.

“Protecting land, like this vast and irreplaceable Maya Forest in Belize, is the critical first step in halting extinctions and stabilizing our climate. It can only happen through partnerships, and Rainforest Trust is committed to helping replicate this success worldwide.”

James Deutsch
PhD, CEO, Rainforest Trust

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