Jungles & Wildlife in Belize

Call of the Wild

Belize has the most accessible jungle in the Western Hemisphere with several productive habitats that harbor a diversity of flora and wildlife. Belize has over 70 kinds of forests grouped into 3 main groups: pine and savannah, mangrove and coastal habitats and the most abundant, broadleaf and cohune palms. The country harbors 4,000 species of flowering plants including 250 orchids and 700 trees. There are over 540 species of birds and 5 of the 7 wildcats in the Americas, including the famed jaguar. Hiking along nature trails may take you past lush foliage, birds and, to the observant eye, a variety of wildlife. Waterfalls or caves may also cross your path. Horseback riding and mountain biking are popular alternatives to hiking, while canoeing along jungle rivers allows you to take in the various wildlife along the banks. Remember to keep a sharp eye out for wildlife while enjoying nature. Alan Ravinowitz, who pioneered the establishment of the Cockscomb Jaguar Preserve, says it best, “The forest is teeming with wildlife, but you see and hear very little just by walking through it.” The seemingly solid wall of green provides innumerable hiding places. But to the patient, perceptive and informed individual, the biological wealth of the forest eventually reveals itself.

Popular Nature Attractions

Various protected areas in the country are known for their unique flora and variety of wildlife. The Rio Bravo Conservation Area in Orange Walk covers 200,000 acres and harbors the 5 wildcats of Belize (with a high concentration of jaguars), 400 species of birds and other various mammals and reptiles. The Community Baboon Sanctuary has a healthy population of howler monkeys (about 1,200), whose guttural roar is heard from miles away. Mountain Pine Ridge in Cayo is known for its landscapes, with mountains and valleys etched by rivers and numerous waterfalls. The Cockscomb Basin Preserve in Stann Creek is the only jaguar preserve in the world. Covering 155 square miles, it has lush flora, a variety of wildlife, plenty of birds, some unusual reptiles like the red-eyed tree frog and lush waterfalls. Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary encompasses a string of rivers and lagoons that harbor a variety of migratory and resident birds, including the jabiru stork, the largest bird in the Western Hemisphere. The Colombia River Forest Reserve in Toledo covers over 100,000 acres and is one of the only continuous tracts of undisturbed rainforest left in Central America. These are just a few of the many areas where one can enjoy the diverse flora and fauna of the country. There is a continuous effort to protect the country’s varied forests and the wildlife they harbor. 40% of the country’s territory is under some sort of protected status, such as forest and nature reserves, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, natural monuments and even private reserves.

Conservation

There is a continuous effort to protect the country’s varied forests and the wildlife they harbor. 40% of the country’s territory is under some sort of protected status, such as forest and nature reserves, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, natural monuments and even private reserves. Although deforestation has affected Belize, it is nowhere near the widespread destruction that occurs in other parts of Central America. Also, the country’s low population density allows most of the forests to grow under minimal human pressure. About 70% of the land is still covered by forests and animals that are endangered or extinct elsewhere are fairly common. Some visitors are sometimes disappointed by the apparent lack of wildlife, so for those who think hiking through wild jungle is like walking through a zoo, bare the following in mind. It takes many years to fine tune one’s wildlife-viewing skills. Alan Ravinowitz, who pioneered the establishment of the Cockscomb Jaguar Preserve, says it best. “The forest is teeming with wildlife, but you see and hear very little just by walking through it.” The seemingly solid wall of green provides innumerable hiding places. But to the patient, perceptive and informed individual, the biological wealth of the forest eventually reveals itself.

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