The Chocón Machacas Biotope protects coastal wetlands, where endangered West Indian manatees spend their days in the warm water, nibbling on seagrass and mangrove leaves. This area and the Rio Dulce National Park are part of a network of protected areas. They include the largest remaining mangrove forest in Caribbean Guatemala. The wetlands provide vital habitat for birds migrating along the Atlantic Flyway.
Many human activities are damaging the areas, including illegal hunting, destructive fishing, mangrove cutting, erosion from illegal development, poor practices by the tourist industry, and stone and sand removal. The government allocates little money to combat them.
This project will beef up protection with weekly patrols around four small islands in the protected areas. Our nonprofit partner, FUNDAECO, will use its boats to deter and report illegal activity. They will also put up signs at the islands, spelling out the rules against environmentally harmful activities.
The other key part of this project is outreach to local communities. An environmental pride campaign targets parents, community councils, women’s organizations, and fishers. Refurbishing the visitors’ center, near Cayo Cecon, will support ecotourism and bring sustainable income to local residents.
Students in two communities, Crique Jute and La Angostura, are receiving environmental education. About 250 boys and girls, from first to sixth grade, will take part. The programs focus on the endangered manatees and the seagrass and mangrove habitats they need to survive. Our project partner will develop materials specifically for the children here.