Ya’axche news has moved

Ya'axche news

The new news section of Ya'axche's website

We have now integrated the news into our main website. For the latest news on Ya’axche Conservation Trust, please visit http://www.yaaxche.org/news.html.

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FFI’s: Focus On The Ceiba Tree

Article extracted from FFI

The ceiba tree (Ceiba pentandra) is one of the largest trees in Belize’s Golden Stream Watershed ecosystem. Though not listed on the IUCN Red List, it is a vital component of the ecosystem and has an iconic status in the region’s communities.

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is working with the grassroots organisation Ya’axché Conservation Trust to protect the ceiba’s forest habitat by working with local people. The habitat is home to jaguar, tapir and many other threatened species.

Learn more about our work to save the ceiba tree’s habitat.

Ceiba tree quick facts

  • Grows to 60-70 m (200-230 ft)
  • Has a straight, largely branchless trunk that culminates in a huge, spreading canopy, and buttress roots that can be taller than a grown person
  • Its deep roots mean it’s often one of the few trees left standing after a hurricane.
  • Plays an important ecological role, supplying shade, nectar, fruit and many other necessities for wildlife
  • In traditional Mayan culture, the ceiba tree represents the link between the underworld and the heavens because it’s so tall
  • The ceiba tree’s branches were believed by Mayans to act as a seat from which the gods watched the people walking below

 IYB Issue: Cultural connections

  • The ceiba tree’s strong cultural ties to Mayan culture has proven invaluable for FFI’s partner Ya’axché Conservation Trust. The communities in and around the Golden Stream Watershed are mostly Mayan. In choosing the ceiba tree for its name and logo (Ya’axché means ceiba tree in the Mopan Mayan language), Ya’axché is highlighting its focus on locally-driven solutions to conservation problems.  
  • Identifying the local cultural value of species can help garner community support for wider habitat protection. Humans are not separate from nature. The more we identify ways to strengthen the link between conservation and society, the more we have a chance of saving the planet’s biodiversity.

“The Ceiba tree stands tall and strong just like Ya’axché which together with FFI is proactively protecting more than 300,000 acres of the Maya Golden Landscape habitat that links the Maya Mountains to the Belize Barrier Reef.”
Lisel Alamilla, Ya’axché Conservation Trust

How You Can Help

Eat more chocolate! Well.. eat more Green and Black’s Maya Gold chocolate to be exact. A significant percentage of chocolate beans that go into it come from farmers that FFI and Ya’axché have supported around the Golden Stream Watershed area. 

Growing cacao under the rainforest canopy is much better for the forest and earns them more income than their previous slash-and-burn subsistence farming.

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Central American River Turtle



Please help look for hicatees


Women cleaning hicatees for sale photo taken by staff

Did you enjoy a tasty and traditional Easter meal of hicatee this year? If so, it may have been your last as this Critically Endangered species was listed as one of the Top 25 Turtles on Death Row by the Turtle Conservation Fund over 7 years ago. To be classified as Critically Endangered, the species must face an extremely high risk of extinction in the immediate future. In terms of biological diversity, the Dermatemys mawii (hicatee) is of very high importance; it is the single living genus and species in this family, which dates back to the Eocene.  

Preparing a female hicatee for sale at a market photo taken by staff

The main threat to the hicatee is over  hunting. Hunting regulations do apply in Belize,and include a closed season (the month of May), a take limit (maximum 3 per individual and 5 per vehicle), and limits on the size of females that can be killed. In addition, Belize Fisheries regulations state that no person shall buy or sell any hicatee turtle, however, for just one hour on one random day at the fish market in Belize City, I witnessed 4 hicatees being offered for sale. Obviously, national legislation to protect the hicatee turtle in Belize has been ineffective, wether due to lack of consistent enforcement or lack of general knowledge of, and compliance with, regulations.   

For adequate and realistic conservation measures to be adopted and enforced by the Government of Belize and the managers of the protected areas, there must be a drastic change in awareness in both governmental agencies and the public at large. This can only be brought about through the presentation of a comprehensive and accurate report on the current status of hicatee populations nationally, the threats impacting them, the outcome of current trends, and viable strategies to safeguard the species and critical habitat for future generations.   

Dermatemys mawii photo by Thomas Rainwater


There is a strong concern by conservationists, nationally and internationally about the sharp decline of the hicatee. From April-June of 2010, surveys were conducted throughout Belize by international reptile expert Thomas Rainwater (who took the accompanying photo), to assess the current hicatee population. Plans are underway to conduct a workshop to draft a National Conservation Action Strategy for the hicatee, with anticipated completion by the fall of 2010. Information on the outcome of these activities will be forthcoming.   

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Punta Gorda Community Clean-up Success

Last week the entire Punta Gorda coast was covered with litter and debris. The community of Punta Gorda come out to clean the coast.

For the clean-up present were students from all school in the Punta Gorda, football teams, youth groups, volunteers and private sectors. Here are some pictures taken in from the clean-up. This is one beautiful community – Punta Gorda Town. I would like to thank all those who came out to support this cause. It is such a good feeling and site to see people working together.

Below are some of the pictures taken during the clean-up:

Pooling resources to clean the coast

Picking up garbage

Students Cleaning the Seaside

Garbage collected and placed on the roadside

Football players cleaning

Some of the garbage along coast

Football players assisting in the clean-up

Taking care of the garbage

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Toledo villagers beg for BDF

The following story is an extract from: Amandala
Posted: 18/06/2010 – 09:49 AM
Author: Adele Ramos – adelescribe@gmail.com

The chairman of the village of San Jose and villagers of San Jose and Na Lum Cah, Toledo, are calling on the Government of Belize to increase Belize Defence Force (BDF) presence in the area, after reports that Guatemalan xatéros are operating very close to their village, and have most recently been stealing their horses.

Even though a military operation was dispatched to the area at the start of the week, according to an official source, Guatemalan xatéros, villagers say, were sighted in the area as recent as last night, Wednesday.

The report is furthermore linked to the sighting of an illegal clearing inside the Columbia River Forest Reserve – a magnet to Guatemalan xatéros, loggers and poachers who frequent the area to illegally extract natural resources. Eight men were recently sighted together in the area.

Clearly, the most recent developments solidify security concerns by villagers in the area, not too far from the reserve, whose property have allegedly been pillaged at night by persons they believe to be illegal xatéros.

Wil Maheia, activist and leader of the People’s National Party, reported to Amandala that even though the rains prevented him and his companions from going deep into the Columbia River Forest Reserve, they were able to speak with frustrated villagers from San Jose, Toledo, who confirmed rustling of horses and a donkey from the area.

“We spoke to the chairman Mr. Peck who mentioned that he would like to see a more permanent presence of the BDF in the area, because it is only when things like this happen that they get a reaction from the military,” Maheia conveyed. “‘If Amandala did not print that article, probably no movement would have taken place,’ he said.”

Emitero Sho, villager of Na Lum Cah, echoed that frustration, complaining that the Guatemalans stole his donkey and some horses from other villagers. When they went to report the matter to the Punta Gorda police, 30 miles away from where they live, villagers said, the PG police sent them to file a report at the San Antonio Police Station, several miles inland. The villager said that he did not have the money to go to another station to file the report and so decided to abandon those attempts. Despite a complaint filed to the Ministry of Defence, the villager said, no one has gone to locate them to get any statements from them.

Maheia narrated: “When we arrived in the village, we saw some military personnel. We went to ask them if they had gone into the Colombia Forest to investigate the reports of Guatemalan squatters and that of the stealing of horses. Lt. B. Robinson said that he cannot make a comment on their visit in the area and that all questions should be directed to Officer [Ganney] Dortch at Price Barracks [Ladyville]. Rafael Sho, a villager of San Jose, said that he had gone into the forest and saw xatéros extracting the xaté and that he would like to see the presence of the BDF.

“He told us that as of now, the BDF are patrolling, but it is limited and the xatéros are out there in full force. We also got a report that last night, the Guatemalans were back in the village of Na Lum Cah and tried to steal more horses, but when the horse made a noise, the owners were awakened and the Guatemalans ran away. Almost every villager we spoke to asked that there should be more military presence in the area.”

Military Liaison Officer, Lieutenant Victor Briceño, reported to Amandala Thursday that the BDF is currently out on a mission in the area to find out the facts on the ground. Briceño said that they have received the complaint at their ministry that Guatemalans have rustled horses in the area and cleared out a portion of the Columbia River Forest Reserve.

The xatéros used to bring their own horses, he recollected, claiming the horse rustling has not happened in that area for a while.

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Punta Gorda Community Clean-up

Seaside Cleaning

 Lately, there has been an increase in litter along the coast of Punta Gorda Town. Ya’axché, in collaboration with the Punta Gorda Town Council and other citizens of Toledo, has been cleaning up the garbage, debris and other pollution along PG’s coast. But only a few cannot handle the great excess garbage floating around.

The litter, debris, tree trunks and stumps are not here because of Belize’s poor waste 

Loading tree trunks onto trailer

management. Most of the garbage (consisting of products made and mostly used in Guatemala) are from our neighbouring countries who use these products. This is in addition to our home-grown garbage. 

Ya’axché, today, brought a trailer to remove the huge tree trunks and stumps from the seaside to an empty lot around the Burial Ground Area. This can be used as firewood when dry. Ya’axche also provided a chainsaw for cutting the trees into smaller pieces for easy clearing. 

The Town Council would like the entire Punta Gorda community to participate in this clean up. 

Some locals helping

 Punta Gorda needs our help to make it look beautiful. Not only is it unsightly, but it is not good for the health of young children who enjoy these waters and also tourists, not to mention providing a bad environment for the fish to live and regenerate in. We are not asking for money, but merely asking for your time to clean up our community. 

On Friday June 18th 2010, Ya’axché is asking the community to assist in this clean-up. Ya’axché will provide a trailer to transport and a chainsaw to cut the large tree trunks and stumps. Ya’axché’s staff will participate in this clean-up as well. 

Please come out to support this cause. Let’s make Punta Gorda Town a beautiful place where people want to visit. The community effort of people working together will make it even more beautiful . 

A beautiful sea we can enjoy

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Watershed Weekend Preparation

Meandering Rio Grande

Water is an essential part of all life. On Saturday June 26,th 2010, Ya’axché is preparing and will be hosting a fun-filled Watershed Weekend. The main purpose of this event is to raise awareness and educate the communities about Toledo’s watersheds. Interactive and fune learning experiences will actively involve the communities that lie within or buffer the Maya Golden Landscape  (MGL) and to raise awareness of how the quality of their watershed affects the quality of their lives.  

This idea of such an event was first brought up to educate and raise  


awareness among the communities about watersheds. This event is designed to show the importance of fresh water in their communities. Not only are the rivers used for daily washing, bathing, farming and drinking but also play an essential role in maintaining the diversity of wildlife. If these resources are not preserved or managed in a sustainable manner, it then becomes a problem. Rivers serve as a habitat for semi and aquatic vertebrates and invertebrates. You are welcome to participate in this event: learn more about your watershed, have a fun day and see how Ya’axché contributes to watershed protection and management. Most importantly, learn what you can do to improve the quality of water in your community.  

Rio Grande River

The Watershed Weekend promises to be a very fun-filled day but also a very informative one for both children and adults. For the children, activities like water-balloon fights, slip and slide, tug of war, apple-bobbing, trivia and many other water related games will be happening. And not to forget the adults,  we have apple-bobbing games, kayak racing on the Golden Stream River and many other watershed themed games.  

On display will be a big watershed model, real life weird and wonderful river creatures fresh from our neighborhood rivers, and the premier of “Rivers to Reef” and Ajax film highlighting throughout the world the interconnectivity of rivers and watersheds to other ecosystems. Meet Ya’axché rangers who will be giving presentations on Hicatees, the Critically Endangered Central American river turtle and freshwater monitoring techniques. The winner of the Healthy Watershed Poster Design Competition will be revealed and entries displayed; the winning design will be printed onto T-shirts and these T-shirts will be presented to participants in the competition from the schools involved.  

Snacks will be provided. Food and drinks will be on sale provided by Medina Bank Parent Teacher Association to help raise funds. A free bus will be running through the villages of San Miguel, Silver Creek, Indian Creek, Golden Stream, Tambran, Medina Bank, Bladen and Trio for interested persons.  

Mark the 26,th of June 2010 as a must-attend event on your calendar. It promises to be one of massive learning and tons of fun for the family.  

This event was made possible with the aid of the UNDP COMPACT project and the U.S National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).

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