The Maya Forest Corridor has been identified as a conservation priority by the Government of Belize, several international organizations, and our focal partner in Belize, the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) led by Dr. Elma Kay at the University of Belize. ERI, WCS, and Panthera led a 10 year study together to determine the ecological importance of the corridor. They established that the long-term viability of Jaguars, Tapirs, and other large mammals in the region depends on this corridor. The site is a globally recognized Key Biodiversity Area because it has important habitat for threatened species, including the critically endangered Central American River Turtle and endangered Yellow-headed Amazon Parrot.
The corridor connects the two largest blocks of the Selva Maya (Maya Forest), one of the five great forests of Central America that stretches across Belize, Guatemala, and adjacent parts of southern Mexico. The Selva Maya has the largest remaining populations of Jaguar and Tapir in all of Central America in large part thanks to the connectivity of this forest. However, as with so many other tropical forests, it is under threat on many different fronts and will soon be severed in the middle if action isn't taken.
We are now close to securing the keystone properties for the corridor that would link these two large blocks of the Selva Maya. This 40,000 acre reserve would secure an estimated 2.5 million tons of carbon. The corridor contributes to the viability of the broader Selva Maya by keeping 10 million acres of forest continuous. This connection ensures gene flow and healthy populations of seed dispersing mammals, birds, and other ecosystem engineering animals that are critical to forest resilience and hence continued, long-term carbon sequestration across the entirety of the largest rainforest in Mesoamerica. In total, the Selva Maya harnesses over 600 million tons of carbon.
Our goal is to secure 80% of the Maya Forest Corridor by December 2020. The targeted properties are the crown jewels of the corridor as they provided habitat for the most endangered species in the region. They are also at the greatest risk of being lost to logging and an expansion of sugar cane plantations and cattle ranching in the very near future. The total project cost is $23.5 million. Over the past year, we have raised $16.4 million in committed pledges. The remaining need is $2.6 million in philanthropic support and a bridge loan of $4.5 million to support the land acquisition until carbon revenue can cover this cost over a ten year period. All funds raised above this amount will be directed to land acquisitions to secure the remaining 20% of the corridor and management of the entire area.
Maya Forest corridor brief (PDF) | Maya Forest Corridor intro (PPT) | Letter support from Phantera (PDF)
Annual reports & updates
This year, our policy campaigns have been slowed but not stopped by the pandemic. Thanks to your continued and generous support, Oceana and our allies won major victories spanning the globe in 2020 in our campaigns around the world to improve fishery management and protect endangered species, protect habitat and prevent pollution. Highlights from this past year include:
• In Belize, the Government banned the use of gillnets throughout its waters. This means that 40 percent of the world’s second largest reef is now protected from gillnets, trawling and oil drilling.
• In Brazil, the bottom trawl ban protecting a huge area off the coast of Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil’s Alaska) survived a constitutional challenge by the trawling fleet. The fleet’s legal efforts are not over, but we are confident we will sustain this big habitat protection measure.
• In California, the state finalized protections for whales, sea turtles and other creatures from death in swordfish nets, requiring conversion out of a gear that kills more endangered species (as bycatch) than all US west coast and Alaskan fisheries combined.
• In Canada, the Government announced the ban of six types of single-use plastics (bags, stir-ers, sticks, six-pack rings, cutlery, straws and food service ware) by the end of 2021.
• In Chile, Oceana and our allies protected a vast area in Patagonia from new salmon farming concessions (which bring along pollution and many other problems to this pristine area).
• In the Philippines, the Government finalized rules requiring vessel monitoring for commercial fishing vessels, a measure that will help protect the 15 kilometers closest to the coast around all the many islands of that big ocean country.
• In the US, President Trump reversed course and announced a ban of new offshore oil leases for 10 years off the coasts of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Seismic mapping of underwater oil reserves stopped.
On the last day of this unprecedented year, I want to express my gratitude for your continued support. I've been reflecting back on 2020 and looking ahead at the year to come. We have so many accomplishments to celebrate. To highlight just a few:
We concluded a field survey to asses the orangutan population in Gunung Palung National Park
We awarded West Bornean Orangutan Caring Scholarships, funding an additional 6 underprivileged, well-deserving university students
We supported the establishment of two new Customary Forests in the villages of Batu Barat and Rantau Panjang, and have now protected nearly 8000 hectares of critical forest
We spent more than 1900 hours following 35 wild orangutans to conduct scientific research
Together, we have made incredible strides towards orangutan conservation, through our focus on education, research, sustainable lifestyles, capacity building, and multigenerational engagement. I am optimistic about the year to come. Please consider making a charitable donation today, so that together, we can continue the fight to #SaveWildOrangutans. We've recently launched an online membership initiative, and continue to graciously accept one-time, tax deductible donations of any kind.
Thank you for making this important work possible.
Cheryl Knott, PhD
Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program
> Consult the full Year in Review