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Ceiba tree

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IUCN Red List conservation status

About: Ceiba tree

The ceiba tree  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.

Ceiba tree facts

  • Grows to 60-70 metres (200-230 feet)
  • 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

The ceiba tree’s strong cultural ties to Mayan culture have 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.

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