Mar 11, 2019

Bioblitz Planning

This year’s Bioblitz event is set to be another one for the books. The planning committee has been hard at work to plan activities for this year’s event. In addition to identifying three target schools to attend the event this year, we have also narrowed down the list of education topics. This year will focus not only on research, but will also highlight Ya’axche’s work in protected areas enforcement. The aim of this year’s event is to promote conservation in its various forms and empower youth to make a difference directly and in their households. The following topics will be central to this year’s event:

 

Research and Monitoring

  • Camera Trapping- Students will learn about the use of camera trapping in biodiversity monitoring. In addition, student will be shown various photo datasets from Ya’axche’s monitoring grid to demonstrate various wildlife species that are able to thrive in protected areas and climate-smart farms.
  • Botanical Monitoring: Students will learn basic tree identification skills, and the role of forest conservation in a balanced ecosystem.
  • Avian Monitoring: Students will learn how to use binoculars and learn the basics of bird identification. This includes a short birding walk with Ya’axche’s Science team and staff in a basic point count of avian species in the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve.

 

Protected Areas Management (Enforcement)

  • Map Reading and Orienteering: Students will learn how to read a map, use a GPS and compass. Students will navigate around the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve field station with some of Ya’axche’s very own enforcement rangers!
Feb 25, 2019

Farm monitoring using Camera Traps

Jaguar caught on camera trap
Jaguar caught on camera trap

Since November, the Ya’axche Human/Jaguar Conflict officer and team have been focusing on gathering important data on the wildlife that surrounds our demonstration “jaguar-friendly” farms. Through your kind donations, and the assistance of the Disney Foundation, we have been able to deploy camera trap; and, we have spent the past two months visiting farms to collect photos from each of those traps. Through this collection of data, the Ya’axche team has noted a desire from farmers to receive training on how to process that camera trapping data. This would allow farmers to contribute to data analysis of farm biodiversity data. With this in mind, the human/jaguar conflict team has begun plans for upcoming activities to expand the program. The near future includes a meeting with cattle farmers from demonstration farms to maintain their commitment to continue biodiversity monitoring through camera trapping on their farms. Their commitment will allow for them to receive training on data retrieval and processing.

In other positive news, there has not been any report of jaguar attacks on any of the demonstration “jaguar friendly” farms since November. This is can be partly attributed to the success of the mitigation strategies suggested through our human/jaguar conflict program. Jaguar sightings have been more numerous around the communities in the Maya Golden Landscape (MGL). Video evidence has been shared on social media from witnesses to a jaguar swimming in the Independence lagoon in southern Belize. On January 15, 2019, Ya’axche’s very own Community Outreach and Livelihood Liason Officer, Julio Chub, spotted two young jaguars along the highway near Medina Bank, and managed to capture a photo of one of them. This gives us hope that jaguar populations remain stable in the MGL, which we hope to confirm through analysis of biodiversity monitoring grids like the camera traps integrated on our demonstration farms.

The success of the current demonstration plots serve as a framework for the expansion of the human/jaguar program and provide valuable evidence of successful mitigation techniques. These are highly valuable in agricultural farms of the MGL where conflicts with wildlife are still occuring. Just last month, Ya’axche received a report from one of the “jaguar friendly” farmers, that a neighbouring farm was attacked by a wildcat. Ya’axche later learned that the farmer took retaliation into his own hands and a puma, suspected to be responsible for the attacks, was shot as a result. These events are an example of what Ya’axche hopes to prevent by equipping farms with effective mitigation strategies. The continued support of our donors will allow us to continue the expansion of the program and promote coexistence with wildlife within the Maya Golden Landscape. Ya’axche thanks the donors who allow us to continue our ongoing outreach and technical assistance to rural farmers. Your contribution allows wildlife to thrive safely in their natural home ranges to support a healthy ecosystem for residents of southern Belize. Please continue to support the ongoing human/jaguar conflict mitigation program, and spread the word to friends and colleagues as there is lots more to be done. Check out our other GlobalGiving campaigns to see where your donations can contribute to other areas of conservation like our Bioblitz campaign. https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/help-children-of-toledo-belize-attend-bioblitz/

Nov 26, 2018

Catching up with Small Scale Cattle Farmers

Agnis Ujan with motion-sensitive sound device
Agnis Ujan with motion-sensitive sound device

Our Human Jaguar Conflict team at Ya’axché Conservation Trust has dedicated the last two months to conducting in-depth assessments of the strategies we have employed to mitigate jaguar attacks on farms. This has included one-on-one visits with farmers to evaluate the effectiveness of the unique mitigation strategies used on each livestock farm. In this report, we would like to highlight a follow-up with a female cattle farmer, Agnis Ujan of Big Falls village, southern Belize.

Angis has dedicated her life to raising cattle and it is the only form of income to support her family. One of the major challenges she has faced is losing calves due to jaguar predation. With the help of Ya’axché’s team, support from GlobalGiving donors, and funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), we followed up with Agnis about the effectiveness of mitigation measures employed on her farm.  

Agnis has utilized a combination of camera traps surrounding her farm, installed motion lights to help protect her cattle, and improved her fencing and corrals. Agnis has revealed that since implementing these strategies last year, she has not lost a single calf. She was also appreciative of how much she has learned about wildlife monitoring through this initiative. Agnis not only changes SD cards monthly and self adjusts camera traps on her property, but she has also initiated checks around her property to note wildlife tracks. This allowed her to report the presence of wildcat tracks, which further reassures her and our team about the effectiveness of the mitigation strategies on her farm. Agnis thought it important to apprise our team of the worth of the time invested in maintaining her corral. She is now happy to report seeing other types of wildlife around her farm and it has made her feel a sense of stewardship to protect these wildlife species.

Ya’axché values these interactions with community farmers and we use each account to update our strategies. Our interview with Agnis and other farmers not only allowed us to see the value of investing in these mitigation strategies, but also to follow up with farmers and remind them of simple maintenance actions that can help improve their farm management effectiveness, such as keeping grass chopped, plan their breeding season, bring their cattle in at night especially the calves and repairing fences and corrals.

Our anticipated efforts involve identifying and equipping two new farms with conflict mitigation strategies. These two farms are in the village of Crique Sarco, and will join the seven other “jaguar friendly” farms that Ya’axché works with. In addition to this, we will be planning an upcoming workshop with our partners from the Toledo Livestock Association, the Belize Forest Department and the Ministry of Agriculture. This workshop will provide further information for these farmers on the coexistence of farmers and jaguars in Belize, including the work we are currently doing to provide mitigation options for farmers.

Since July, we have also responded to two separate reports of jaguar conflict. One of these in San Antonio village, and one in Cattle Landing village. We have assessed both these farms and placed camera traps in the area to monitor the presence of jaguars to provide information on how we can best address the situation and provide mitigation options. In addition, we have provided information of wildcat track identification so that farmers are better able to distinguish the wildcat species that visit their farms.

Ya’axché Conservation Trust extends a heartfelt thank you to each donor who has supported the efforts of our human jaguar conflict program. Your kind donations have made the coexistence of farmers and jaguars a tangible reality in rural Toledo, Belize. We still have more funds to raise, kindly share our fundraising campaign.

Improved fencing on Agnis' farm
Improved fencing on Agnis' farm
 
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