Jaguar Conservation in Southern Belize: Conflicts, Perceptions, and Prospects among Mayan Hunters


Michael K. Steinberg 




Steinberg, M.K. 2017. Jaguar conservation in southern Belize: Conflicts, perceptions, and prospects among Mayan hunters. Conservation and Society 14(1): 13-20.


Belize has emerged as an international leader in jaguar conservation through the creation of numerous protected
areas that contain prime cat habitat and by strengthening conservation laws. For example, in 1984, Belize created the
Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Preserve, the first special jaguar protection area in the Americas. In 1995, the government
expanded Cockscomb by creating the adjacent Chiquibul National Park. In 2010, the government continued
this commitment to jaguar conservation by creating the Labouring Creek Jaguar Corridor Wildlife Sanctuary in
central Belize. As a result of these protected areas, Belize has been rightfully lauded as a leader in nature-based
tourism and protected areas creation in Central America. However, outside national parks and communities that
directly benefit from ecotourism, it is less clear how supportive rural residents are of cat conservation. It is also
not clear if jaguars persist outside protected areas in locations such as southern Belize, where the environment has
been significantly altered by human activities. Through interviews with Mayan hunters, this paper investigates
the attitudes towards jaguars, human-jaguar conflicts, and potential community-based jaguar conservation in two
Mayan villages in the Toledo District in southern Belize. Also, using indirect methods, the paper documents the
presence/absence and other temporal/spatial aspects of jaguars in a heavily altered landscape in southern Belize.