The use of wildlife as a resource is a common practice in all countries around the world, however, illegal activities are contributing to various environmental and social altercations amongst the involved communities and individuals, both directly and indirectly. This has led to the generalized global narrative on illegal wildlife hunting and trade as a “good vs. bad” convention. Although legal frameworks are in place to manage hunting and trade sustainably, governments and organizations often find themselves struggling to protect wildlife from illegal hunters, often facing dangerous situations thus the establishment of militarized conservation units. To date, most of the focus is on the African continent and Southeast Asia, with less attention on other biodiverse locations, such as Central and South America. Information about illegal wildlife hunting and trade is increasing in Central and South America but the data is still lacking in both qualitative and quantitative analysis. Frameworks such as Conflict Sensitive Conservation and Conservation Conflict Transformation have been developed to address the complex factors impacting wildlife conservation. In Belize, previous studies have examined the legal and social aspect of wildlife hunting and trade, but there remains a void of information regarding the activities. Herein, this study explored some of the causation and subsequent results of illegal hunting and trade in Southern Belize through semi-structured interviews with conservation practitioners and hunters; ten stakeholders from Stann Creek and Toledo districts in Southern Belize were interviewed. The findings reveal that all participants think hunting in Belize is unsustainable, while five participants cited enforcement as the biggest thing needed to reduce this activity, three cited more farming support and two cited education; additionally, three participants mentioned that starting a gibnut ranching program could help reduce the pressure on wild populations. Eight participants addressed livelihood or the need for additional income as the main motivation for hunting and trading illegally, while hunting for identity was second and protein sources was third. Interestingly, all participants discussed the hunting of Paca (Cuniculus paca), known as gibnut in Belize, as the main hunted species, suggesting that animals that have a legal hunting season are hunted illegally more than other species that are considered non-huntable. This finding is different from other illegal hunting studies that focus on animals that are completely off-limits for hunting. Eight participants mentioned crocodiles (Crocodylus acutus or Crocodylus moreletii) as the species that is hunted the most that does not have a hunting season; participants did not specify a species. Parrots, namely the endangered Yellow Head Parrot (Amazona oratrix), were the species mentioned the most when asked about animals captured for the pet trade. Lastly, recommendations are provided for short, medium and long term initiatives to address this issue from both a technical and behavioral standpoint.
|Degree||Master of Arts in Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation|
|University||School for International Training|
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