La Selva Maya
‘La Selva Maya’ (the Maya forest) is today recognized as one of the largest, intact rainforests within Central America. An impartial witness to the passing ages and actions of men, it has outlived both the ancient Maya groups of the classic period and the early twentieth-century logging camps that had once traversed its length. Today, the Chiquibul is formally recognized as a protected area and forms a key part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. In addition to serving as a physical record of the various periods of Belize’s history, it is a natural habitat that supports the biological diversity of the region’s plants and animals. Unfortunately, the biological diversity the Chiquibul supports has also made it a target for poachers, illegal logging, mineral extraction and the extraction of non-timber forest products.
Over the weekend, PACT organized a team of 5 staff members and sponsored two members of Channel 5’s media house to enter the first annual Chiquibul 20/40k Marathon to raise awareness for the Chiquibul and support their friends in conservation. The marathon trail ran through forest cover – on medium to course terrain – starting off from Guacamayo bridge through to Las Cuevas Research Station, some 12.5 miles away. Participants were given the option of entering as a 20 K marathon challenger, or 40 K challenger. A special competition was created for rangers of protected areas to also compete. Organized by the Belize Wildlife and Referral Clinic (BWRC), the concept of the Challenge was simple: engage the public by offering an opportunity to connect with nature and celebrate fitness while fundraising and directing attention to the causes of both the Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD) – who co-manage the Chiquibul Forest and National Park, and the Belize Wildlife and Referral Clinic, who between them manage the Scarlet Macaw Protection Program.
This being the first annual Chiquibul Challenge Marathon, the response was triple what organizers, Dr. Isabelle Paquet-Durand and Justin Ford of the BWRC had expected. Speaking at the award ceremony yesterday, Dr. Isabel was optimistic and grateful for the overwhelming support from the local NGO and business community, as well as private citizens. Rafael Manzanero, the Director of FCD, was equally bolstered by the response of the public for the first initiative. PACT, for its part, was happy to participate as both a sponsor and support to raise awareness for both of these organizations that together, champion the cause of protection and conservation or Belize’s natural heritage.