Belize Project

In 1989 the International Tropical Conservation Fund, a NGO based at the Papiliorama of Switzerland and the Burgers’ Zoo in Arnhem, Netherlands founded the Shipstern Nature Reserve in the North-East of Belize. Today, this initial private protected area has become a trust for the People of Belize, and is now known as the Shipstern Conservation & Management Area.

Belize Map


CSFI is a Belizean NGO, not for profit, duly registered and audited. Its board is composed of both leading Belizean and foreign conservationists by trade or at heart.

Although its legal seat is in Belize City, CSFI has traditionally been a field-based organization, and its offices are currently still located at the very heart of the Shipstern Conservation and Management Area, in the Corozal District.
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Shipstern Conservation &
Management Area

The Shipstern Conservation & Management Area is located in the very North-East of Belize in the District of Corozal. Established in 1989 as the Shipstern Nature Reserve, it was officially opened by the Minister of Natural Resources in September 1990. It is composed of two entities, one large parcel surrounding the Shipstern Lagoon, and a smaller one, entirely forested area around the Xo-Pol pond, to the West of the main parcel. On October 31st, 2012, the Shipstern C&MA was declared in perpetuity a trust for the benefit of the People and Government of Belize.

The Shipstern C&MA has long been recognized as one of the key protected areas of Belize as it protects an array of rare habitats, some of them unique for Belize. The forests in and around Shipstern have been regenerating almost with no disturbance since Hurricane Janet destroyed the entire area in 1955. As such, and although still secondary in stature, the forests of Shipstern can be considered as pristine.


The Fauna of Shipstern, thanks to two decades of protection, is still very diverse and fairly abundant. Peccaries, curassows and deer roam the forests and savannahs, being precious prey to jaguar and puma. The other three cat species of Belize are also all present, while the Baird’s Tapir is obviously still abundant. The Keel-billed toucan is common, as are several species of parrots, and many Yucatan endemic species. A rarity is the black Catbird, of which Shipstern is the only known mainland habitat. Please visit to download documents on Shipstern’s fauna.


The Flora of Shipstern is equally diverse. It is the only location in Belize where the medium-sized semi-deciduous Yucatan forest can be found, alongside an even rarer forest known as the Pseudophoenix Yucatan coastal dry forest. This forest type is not only extremely rare in Belize (only to be found in Shipstern and the Bacalar Chico NP), it is also scarce elsewhere, being confined to only four small areas in the whole of the Yucatan Peninsula. Please see to download documents on Shipstern’s flora.


Freshwater Creek
Forest Reserve

On May 14, 2013, CSFI signed an agreement with the government pertaining to a long term concession for the management of the Freshwater Creek Forest Reserve (adjacent to the Honey Camp National Park), in parallel to a co-management agreement.

In 2013, CSFI concentrated its efforts in saving Freshwater Creek Forest Reserve, which was in the process of being invaded by illegal agricultural activities, a situation that may have led to the downsizing or even dereserving of the forest reserve. In the year 2014-2016, the forest management team of CSFI carried out ground-breaking forestry work, with the aim of getting a better understanding of Freshwater Creek’s forests. Also, High Conservation Value areas (HCVs) were designated, which in turn allowed to designate which part of the reserve would become production forests.

In 2017, the last preliminary studies will take place, aiming at understanding what costs are involved when rehabilitating, thinning and replanting the forests of Freshwater Creek.

CSFI is convinced that there is a potential for sustainable forest management that is presently untapped in the area. Corozal’s hardwood phenotypes are among the best in Central America, especially for mahogany, and protecting and nurturing this natural resource over the long term would represent a serious livelihood benefit and resource-generating activity. Markets for responsible hardwoods are bound to increase, as well as prices, since demand is quickly outstripping the unsustainably-logged supply.

To turn the crisis facing the hardwood species in northeastern Belize into an opportunity, CSFI proposes a holistic approach to managing Freshwater Creek FR and Honey Camp NP. Our main activities will include:

  • Sustainable forestry through gap planting techniques, with an initial “planting only” period for approximately two decades, and rotational harvesting thereafter (in process)
  • Sustainable harvest of timber and non-timber products, such as palm leaves for thatch roofing, poles and other decorative woods, etc. (in process)
  • Protecting core areas as seed banks and as High Conservation Value forests/habitats (done)
  • Creating a hardwood tree nursery for the Forest Reserve and community benefit (done)
  • Building headquarters for staff (done), and in time, a forestry institute, a recreational area, a visitors’ centre and an arboretum
  • Establish international partnership with worldwide institutes working on sustainable forestry and create a centre of reference in Belize.


Honey Camp
National Park

On March 21st 2013, the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development of Belize signed an agreement with CSFI, whereby CSFI will manage this somewhat forgotten protected area of the Corozal District. The national park encompasses about 3150 hectares (7770 acres) of still continuous forest cover. Honey Camp NP is also, together with the Freshwater Creek Forest Reserve, one of the key components of the Northern Biological Corridor of Belize.

During the initial months after the signing of the agreement CSFI implemented the most urgent activities, including: meeting with local communitiesto discuss issues pertaining to the National Park, controlling of all borders and instalment of signage, assessment of illegal activities past and present and, of course, active surveillance and enforcement.

Honey Camp as such is managed as a biodiversity reservoir and a haven of tranquillity for fauna, in close tandem with Freshwater Creek Forest Reserve. In essence, Honey Camp National Park acts as a High Conservation Value area for Freshwater Creek. In due course, and if funds are available, a tented ranger / tourism infrastructure will be constructed, to make surveillance and visits respectively more efficient and more pleasant.