Charity boxing match raises funds for conservation in Belize

Ya’axché Conservation Trust (Fauna & Flora International’s partner NGO in Belize) has been committed to the conservation fight in southern Belize since 1997. It has won many battles such as successfully managing the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve and co-managing Bladen Nature Reserve with the Forest Department.

However, the hardest battle to win for this Belizean organisation is the fight to achieve the financial stability that will allow it to continue managing the natural resources within its protected areas.

But they are not alone in this fight, with committed supporters right by their side. One such supporter is Georgina Banton, an amateur British boxer who decided to dedicate her first fight to Ya’axché, helping to raise funds for the ranger team to conduct patrols of Bladen Nature Reserve and to collect biodiversity data on the resident fauna and flora.

Georgina Banton.
Georgina 'Big G' Banton.

Georgina fought a great fight at York Hall (one of Britain’s best known boxing venues) in Bethnal Green, London. The fight was well attended, with the spectators eager to see the outcome. Although the promoter made all fights “no contest” (meaning there would be no winner or loser), by all accounts, Georgina was the winner, and raised an outstanding US$1,100 for Ya’axché.

Ya’axché’s focus area, the Maya Golden Landscape, spans approximately 300,000 acres and includes two protected areas (Golden Stream Corridor Preserve and Bladen Nature Reserve) as well as surrounding indigenous Mayan community lands and private lands.

This landscape is recognised as a global biodiversity hotspot and provides the last intact wildlife corridor between the broadleaf forests of the Maya Mountains and the mangroves and coral reefs of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef World Heritage Site (the second largest reef complex in the world).

The Maya Golden Landscape supports over 3,000 plant species, 110 mammals, 400 birds, 92 reptiles and amphibians, and includes 18 endemic and 37 globally threatened species. The 100,000 acre Bladen Nature Reserve, which Georgina’s fight was dedicated to, holds particular importance, since its pristine primary growth rainforest is described as the “crown jewel” of Belize’s protected area system.

Speckled owl (spotted at Bladen).
Speckled owl, spotted at Bladen Nature Reserve. Credit: Ya’axché Conservation Trust.

However this landscape is coming under increasing threat as a result of poor land-use planning, expansion and intensification of agriculture, the unsustainable extraction of natural resources and rising pressure from industry such as for oil exploration and hydroelectric development.

Taking action

In explaining her decision to raise money for Ya’axché, Georgina said: “Ya’axché Conservation Trust represents a perfect combination of values and ideals, merging together the protection of important animal and plant species whilst also promoting human involvement, support and education.” She went on to say, “It’s an excellent example of how important it is to highlight the links between people and nature, and the impact and dependence they all have on each other.”

Ya’axché ranger working with Bladen Researchers.
Ya’axché ranger working with Bladen researchers. Credit: Ya’axché Conservation Trust.

Georgina’s efforts to support the ranger team will contribute to Ya’axché’s long term goal of creating a model of integrated landscape management in the Maya Golden Landscape which includes not only patrol, enforcement and monitoring but also creating alternative livelihoods for community members, improving communication between stakeholders, and supporting improved education and leadership.

“At Ya’axché, we already have the passion for the cause and the skills to fight for it, what we don’t have is the funds to support our dedicated field staff,” said Lee Mcloughlin, Protected Areas Manager at Ya’axché. The contribution of dedicated friends such as Georgina is an example to all of those people out there that action needs to be taken to reverse the decline in biodiversity.”

To find out more about Ya’axché’s work, visit their website: www.yaaxche.org.

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