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Things to do in Belize: The Community Baboon Sanctuary

By Slickrock Adventures on August 25, 2012

The Community Baboon Sanctuary (CBS) is a pioneering project in voluntary grassroots conservation. The goal is to sustain the habitat of the Black Howler Monkey (called ‘baboon’ in the local Creole dialect) while promoting the economic development of the participating communities. The result has been an innovative project in sustainable ecotourism that protects the habitat for the endangered Black Howler Monkey and other species while offering a unique opportunity for visitors to experience the rainforest and witness Black Howler Monkeys in the wild.

Over 200 private landowners in stretching over 20 square miles, have voluntarily pledged to conserve their land for the protection of the Black Howler Monkey habitat. Many of these landowners benefit directly from the Sanctuary thanks to ecotourism. Many more benefit indirectly through the educational programs. Moreover, the population of the Black Howler Monkey in the Sanctuary has risen to over 2,000 monkeys.

With four main goals — Conservation, Education, Research, and  — the CBS has become a model for other such sanctuaries throughout the world. The Sanctuary was founded by Dr. Robert Horwich, an American primatologist and Fallet Young, a landowner in the village of Bermudian Landing, in 1985 with the initial participation of 12 landowners. As it has grown, it has helped ensure the protection of not just Black Howler Monkeys, but many species of flora and fauna in the area. In 1998, the Women’s Conservation Group was formed, which currently manages the CBS.

The greatest threat to the monkeys continues to be habitat disturbance due to agriculture, logging and hunting. The Sanctuary was established to help address this threat by showing landowners the benefits of preserving their lands for the monkeys. The CBS works to make sustainable tourism an attractive alternative to destructive land management practices. At the same time, the Sanctuary helps educate both the local community and visitors about the importance of biodiversity and sustainability.

Slash-and-burn land clearing can expand deforestation and intensify the threats to the Black Howler Monkey. The CBS promotes sustainable land management practices.

Creative measures like baboon bridges, made of rope and sticks, allow monkeys and humans to live together in greater harmony.