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It’s a jungle out there, Zoo animals ready for human visitors

Belize Zoo Reopens after Hurricane Richard

Belize Zoo Reopens after Hurricane Richard

Channel 5 Belize | Since Hurricane Richard’s fury left many of the animals at the Belize Zoo without their habitats, staff members at the facility, with the help of volunteers, have been feverishly trying to restore things back to normal. That effort started soon after the storm when the zoo had to close its doors for the clean-up and retrofitting. Well, now the animals and their caretakers are prepped and ready to welcome you and your family or classmates for the big opening this week. The reopening is centered around books and posters highlighting the three-year-old jaguar Junior Buddy, to showcase the plight of jaguars. Environmental Educator at the Belize Zoo, Jamal Andrewin explains.

Jamal Andrewin, Environmental Educator, Belize Zoo

“It’s called, “The Jaguar – Help Me or Hurt Me” and its message is quite simple. It’s to remind Belizeans that there are about six to eight hundred jaguars left in Belize. That’s conservative estimates and the population is on decline due to deforestation and persecution due to hunters and farmers right? Apart from this they suffer from the fact that they are hunted as well for their teeth and their claws to make jaguar jewelry. For example, the picture of this jaguar tooth pendant here, we’ve had reports of it coming from areas such as Lamanai, Placencia, San Pedro, and tourists are targeted. They’re approached, they’re offered these and – Belizeans as well. So the idea of this process is to remind people that it’s completely illegal to purchase these that no jaguar is found dead and the parts are taken. They are more than likely killed and they are killed for these purposes.”

The opening is set for December first at the same location at mile twenty nine on the Western Highway. The zoo charges students on school trips a dollar for each child and teacher.

Coalition & UNESCO Find Common Ground In Request For Offshore Drilling Ban

7 News Belize | As we reported last night, Belize’s World Heritage Sites are in Danger – and UNESCO has cautioned government that its has until February first, 2011 to adequately address the concerns or risk the likelihood of Belize’s Barrier Reef system being stripped of its World Heritage Status. The implications of this are enormous for conservation, tourism, and the entire country profile.

But when we spoke to the PM yesterday, he said that was the first he was hearing of it – which is kinda scary considering that there are only two months to go before the deadline – and December is usually a write-off. We say “kinda scary” because it’s not just a few things that UNESCO has taken issue with – there is an entire laundry list. It includes private land holdings and petroleum concessions given out in the World Heritage area.

That has certainly caught the attention of the “The Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage” – an umbrella group with membership of 40 activist and conservation agencies who want a ban imposed on offshore drilling. Chairman Geovannie Brackett says government must do the right thing and find a way to comply quickly with the UNESCO ultimatum.

Geovannie Brackett
“Clearly UNESCO is making very clear to the government that to continue in this route of issuing oil concessions in the World Heritage Site is incompatible with World Heritage status and we too at the coalition holds that same sentiments and we continue to call on government to take it seriously. If you read the document is not only goes beyond oil exploration, it’s also talks about leases and sales of islands and what have you with within the World Heritage Site. It re-emphasizes our concerns of how could you have given out concessions within the barrier reef, it doesn’t take a scientist to understand that with some sort of environmental consciousness that you just don’t do that. I’m not trying to make it seem as its pure animosity that we want to create with the government but it is in a state of urgency. Yourself mentioned it, that you could call off the December, and February 1st is right here, we have until February 1st to get our act together. There is that great need right now for government to come to the table with all stakeholders, the NGOs and all the other stakeholders to start to create and to work on a plan and response to indicate to UNESCO that we are serious about meeting its requirement.”

The UNESCO communiqué notes that there have been several satisfactory undertakings from Government including the cessation of all new land transactions in the world heritage area – but it wants a declaration that sale of lands in the area will stop permanently. It also wants government to “enact legislation to prohibit oil exploration within the Belize Barrier Reef system because it is a World Heritage Site.”

Reef Beat On What’s Eating The Reef

Belize Coral Reef

Belize Coral Reef

7 News Belize | Last week Janelle Chanona looked at alternative means of earning a livelihood from the reef. This week she tells us how the reefs are protected – not so much by humans as they are by special fish who scour the reef to keep it healthy – but those fish also need protection from lawmakers to do their work. Here’s how it all comes together:

Belize’s marine resources have traditionally been described with adjectives like “bountiful”, “rich”, and “abundant”. But disturbingly, the descriptive words now being used are “scarce”, “threatened” and “vulnerable”. In the beginning, fishers extracted everything from oysters to turtles to manatees from Belizean waters as commercial produce. When those product numbers dwindled, fishers turned to lobster, conch and snappers. But once again, history is repeating itself.

So in the past people used to say, “well I used to go and fish and after half day come home with enough to feed my family, to sell at the market” and today that’s different. Today they’ll say I have to buy more fuel, I have to go further away and I will not bring the amount of marine products that I used to bring.

Desperate to support their families, fishers targeted species like the parrotfish. But the loss of the grazers, coupled with the effects of climate change, have had significant impact on the reef.

Janet Gibson, Wildlife Conservation Society
“Basically our reefs are shifting, instead of being mainly coral, they are shifting to become algal dominated reefs. So if you have, if you can improve the balance on the reef so that you’ve got these fish grazing, they are just like grazers, grazing and eating that algae, then you improve the chances that you’ll get better coral recruitment and over time that you will get greater percentage of live coral cover.” (more…)

11 things we love about Belize

San Pedro Belize

11 Things to love about Belize

Globetrotter Girls | Belize was meant to be a quick week on the way to Guatemala, but ended up being eleven excellent, adventurous days like none other on our trip. In celebration of our new love of this country, read on for our listing of eleven things we love about Belize, one for each day:

  1. 174 miles of beautiful coastline – Belize might be small, but the entire eastern side borders the Caribbean Sea, with many white sand beaches and turquoise waters.
  2. Banana Bread – the supersoft Belizean banana bread is unrivaled, especially when it comes fresh out of the oven.
  3. The amazing caves in Western Belize: Both Barton Creek and Actun Tunichil Muknal are home to amazing rock formations, floor to ceiling stalagtites & stalagmites, and fascinating Maya artifacts.
  4. The cultural mix – we were surprised by the peaceful mingling of Latinos, the Garifuna, Mestizos, Maya and Mennonites.
  5. The beautiful, undiscovered nature – Traveling through Belize, you see green everywhere: woods, fields, meadows, and much of it still seems so untouched. Many of the caves and Maya sites have only recently been found.
  6. Belikin Beer, enjoyed ice cold.
  7. The laid-back lifestyle on the Cayes – ‘Go slow’ is the motto of Caye Caulker, and that is exactly how life is lived. Stay away from the Cayes if you’re in a rush, because nobody else is (including service staff at bars and hotels).
  8. The ‘small town feel’ to the country – Everyone will stop for a friendly chat, and within days, you already feel at home. With a population of 300,000, Belize is small not only in size, but also in population. It is likely to run in to locals you meet in one place while exploring somewhere else way across country.
  9. Swimming with sting rays, nurse sharks, turtles, barracudas, and tons of other fish on the Mesoamerican reef (plus the beautiful corals).
  10. The ‘swing bars’ on Caye Caulker make even the longest term travelers feel on holiday.
  11. The diversity of the country: from tiny islands, subtropical woods, mountainous rain forests, fruit orchards, cattle meadows, caves and waterfalls – all filled with abundant wildlife.

$140 Million in cocaine up in smoke

Belize Cocaine Arrest

Cocaine Bust Destroyed

Channel 5 Belize | The destruction of more than two tons of cocaine has been completed in the north. An estimated one hundred and forty million dollars went up in smoke as the incinerator at the Tower Hill sugar mill destroyed the Colombian coke. The cargo was first brought to Belize City from the south last Thursday and then transferred up north where all day, the police and B.D.F. oversaw the operation. The cocaine, eighty bales and seventeen loose packs were found last Saturday. It was the cargo of a plane that was abandoned near the Bladen Reserve when it could not take off because of a clipped wing.

From its seizure by members of the Belize Special Assignment Group on Saturday November thirteenth, to its ruin today this mass of Colombia’s finest has arguably been the most guarded commodity in the country next to foreign currency at the Central Bank. Across the sprawling Tower Hill plant this morning members of Belize’s elite tactical forces stood guard while work was being done systematically inside the factory’s inferno to destroy eighty bales of cocaine. It was a painstaking task involving the random sampling and jotting down of information pertaining to each package incinerated.

Each bale is counted; a cake then selected and placed on a chopping block where an A.D.U. officer hacks it open with an axe before passing it on to another officer who then throws it into one of two blast furnaces nearby. Occasionally bagasse is added to the fire to contaminate the fumes coming out of the chute. (more…)

Special Olympics National Games scheduled for this weekend

Love FM | Over a hundred athletes are expected to converge in Belize City this weekend for the seventh Special Olympics National games. Alan Auil is the Chairman of Special Olympics Belize.

Alan Auil; Chairman, Special Olympics Belize

“We’ll be having Special Olympics Nations Game on Saturday. That is this Saturday the 20th; the national games are the annual event where we bring in the athletes from throughout the country. We have our athletes divided into three regions; north, central and south. We will have teams from each of the regions competing against each other in track and field. They will be winning medals and ribbons for their achievement on Saturday.”

Maria Novelo, Reporter

How many are participating and is this and all day event?

Alan Auil

“It’ll be an all day event and we are expecting about a hundred and five athletes, 35 from each region, and again it will be mostly or all track and field. We have already had our football tournament and this game on Saturday will be the track and field portion of our national games. It is something we do every year. This is the seventh annual such event that we are hosting and this year it will be held at the MCC Grounds.” (more…)

Director of Immigration, Gareth Murillo, removed from his post following immigration scandal

Channel 5 Belize | The Immigration Department is rocked by a huge immigration scandal. While many people believe that the transgressions go all the way to the top, it seems a public officer is taking the fall. Gareth Murillo, who has been with the department for about six years, is being moved from his post as Director of Immigration effective Monday. He has been transferred to the Transport Department and will be replaced, we are told by public officer, Ruth Meighan.

At the onset of Channel Five’s special investigation into the human smuggling ring, Murillo sat down with News Five’s Jose Sanchez and explained how the policies work in respect of visas issued to Chinese nationals. When questioned about Cuba, Murillo indicated very clearly that any Cuba related visa, he approves is at the behest of the Ministry of Immigration and Defense. The Minister, Carlos Perdomo, told another media house that he personally sat with Murillo to approve visas to be issued at the Belize Embassy in Cuba. The scandal has also exposed that questionable visas have been granted to Sri Lankan and Somalis holding Kenyan Passports. Six immigration officers have been arrested and charged but others in much higher places including those at the Embassy in Cuba, are untouched in this issue that seriously “imperils the nation”.

The Vision Inspired by the People, the People’s United Party as well as Belizeans for Justice, have stated that the government needs to have an independent investigation into the matter. Prime Minister Dean Barrow has offered blind support to Minister Perdomo and said no to an independent commission but now Murillo is rolling.

A Record Bust

Belize Drug BustChannel 7 Belize | 2,604 kilos of cocaine, that’s 5,704 pounds – the largest drug bust in Belizean history is tonight being moved to a secure location after being weighed at the Punta Gorda Police station. The weight was confirmed to us this afternoon by Police and Public Safety Minister Doug Singh who told us via telephone that the cocaine with an estimated street value of 46 million US dollars will be destroyed as soon as possible.

Jules Vasquez
“How can we the public be assured that it is being properly safeguarded and it won’t turn into flour, or it won’t disappear from wherever it is?”

Hon. Doug Singh, Minister of Police
“There are a lot of security measures in place to safeguard the product and to ensure that as soon as possible we can provide for the destruction of it and if possible we try to do that with the media present. I think certainly the public would want to be satisfied that it has been disposed of properly. It is not the first time that planes have entered our air space and it is always a challenge for the department, the police, the BDF and The Anti-Drug Unit to be able to respond in time especially when landings occur in remote locations. That was the situation here, I think we were just a bit prepared, I think we were able to have the early response.”

Jules Vasquez
“There is a lot of speculation that its the DEA that gave you all the information. There is the information to this newsroom which says that it was just local intelligence. Are you able to say how the intercept was made?”

Hon. Doug Singh, Minister of Police
“It was local intelligence, there are monitoring devices available to the drug and the police department that can monitor traffic that enters the air space. It is always difficult for us to predict where they are going to land and that has always been a challenge. As a matter of fact the plane that landed in Sarteneja was also track but it was difficult to determine if it will land in San Pedro or Sarteneja or if it would land in other locations.” (more…)

Blue Hole National Park reopens

Love FM | Yesterday the Belize Audubon Society announced the re-opening of the St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park. Last month Hurricane Richard caused damage to the Park. Since then Belize Audubon Society park directors and wardens have been working to clear the fallen debris from the trails and get the park back to normal operations. Visitors once again have access to the Blue Hole, St. Herman’s and Crystal Caves and other activities. The Belize Audubon Society says a couple of trails have remained closed for ecological reasons so the vegetation in those areas has the opportunity to regenerate. St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park is located twelve miles southeast of Belmopan on the Hummingbird Highway. The Guanacaste National Park which also received tremendous damage still remains closed.

Drug Plane lands on highway with million dollars worth of suspected cocaine

Belize Drug Trafficking

Drug Plane lands on Highway in Southern Belize

Channel 5 Belize | Corruption in the ranks of the police, that’s an allegation that has been around from time immemorial but the stench of corruption hit eerily close to home this past Saturday when a sophisticated drug operation was busted in the south. Four police officers, including the driver assigned of the governor general, and a custom officer have been arrested.

The bust came after a twin engine Beechcraft landed and sat on the Southern Highway for hours last Saturday morning. Later in the day police found in the vicinity, bales of cocaine containing an estimated two point six tons of the drug. If you do the math, at an estimated seventeen point three thousand US dollars per pound, the value of the bust is in the range of a whopping one hundred and forty million Belize dollars, using the US custom valuation. It is still early in the investigation, so the pilot of the plane, the local kingpins and the cartel to which the shipment is linked, have not been revealed. The plane has been pulled off the highway but sits on the roadside.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

Residents in villages on the outskirts of Punta Gorda reported hearing an aircraft flying low over the roofs of their homes close to two o’clock on Saturday morning. That was when the Independence Police Formation received information that a suspected drug plane landed near the Bladen Reserve. At mile fifty-seven on the Southern Highway, the wings of the white plane stretched across the highway. The white twin engine aircraft with black and red pinstripes with registration numbers N786B is a Beechcraft Super King Air 200. (more…)

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