A biogeographical analysis of some relationships between man, land, and wildlife in Belize (British Honduras) Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/b2774019k

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  • This thesis research consists of an investigation of the human influences on wildlife in Belize. The study was accomplished by the collection and analysis of data with respect to land use, habitat characteristics, and wildlife status in Belize. Requirements and status of many species are tabulated in order to give a base upon which to evaluate the wildlife situation as it exists in Belize. Human use of wildlife is discussed. Species accounts and distribution maps are included. Studies were made of the present-day land use patterns and trends in order to evaluate needs in habitat management. It is suggested that since the Mayan period the wildlife of Belize was not influenced greatly by man until the present century, and then largely during the past one to three decades for most species. For a number of species this influence has been expressed in a decrease in numbers especially for curassows, pacas, jaguars, white-lipped peccaries, and crocodiles. Other species have increased or are expected to increase in numbers and to extend their range; a prime example is the cattle egret. A number of animals, including the whitetailed deer, should have increased in numbers with habitat change through land clearing but have not, probably due to over-hunting or possibly other factors. The study shows that certain wildlife species have changed in status and location, as a result of habitat modification. More game species were reported to be present in parts of the southern and western regions of the country, as expected, since these areas are more forested and less settled. The least amount of game was reported present in highly settled areas and locations where there has been considerable habitat modification. Thus, the greatest pressures on wildlife resources were noted in areas where intensified land use resulted in habitat destruction and increased hunting due to an influx of people into the area. In addition natural factors such as diseases and hurricanes are noted to have affected the status of certain wildlife species. At the present Belize is fortunate in that large scale agricultural development is only beginning and hence it is not too late to implement a sound wildlife management program. However, the need is immediate in view of the fact that large areas of land will presumably be developed in the near future, and this coupled with the projected population increase, will result in considerable habitat modification and influences on wildlife resources. It is suggested that the wildlife survived during the Mayan period of large population because they had forest refuges in which to retreat. If forest strips along streams and the present and planned "reserves" of forest in Belize remain as areas of protected habitat, and land management in which forest patches and strips alternating with clearings is practiced, the wildlife will have interconnected "islands" of appropriate habitat which if coupled with adequate wildlife management procedures should insure the survival of the faunal heritage of Belize.
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