Only 0.5 percent of the world's land surface, Mesoamerica is home to about seven percent of the planet's biological diversity. This rich landscape historically served as a land bridge linking North and South America's fauna and flora. It's also a region where natural and cultural heritage overlap, with numerous community and indigenous protected areas, the vestiges of ancient civilizations, and a number of World Heritage sites.
For thousands of years, this area was populated by groups such as the Olmec, Zapotec, Maya, Toltec, and Aztec peoples. Cultural traits that define the region include the domestication of maize, beans, avocado, and vanilla, and a common architectural style.
The 5 Great Forests extend from Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Given WCS’s approach to work on all 5 Great Forests, we work together alongside women and men from communities, local organizations, and governments in every country. We currently have offices in 4 of these countries.
WCS Belize holds over 35 years of experience providing technical and scientific support for marine and terrestrial conservation. Our work includes establishing or supporting the establishment of the country’s first marine protected areas (MPAs) – Half Moon Caye Natural Monument (1982) and Hol Chan Marine Reserve (1987) – as well as the first and only jaguar reserve in Mesoamerica, Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary (1986). WCS has several signature areas of work in Belize, including the fisheries, Managed Access program, the national rollout of the enforcement tool Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) in all protected areas, long-term ecological monitoring for fisheries, and activities with the government to counter wildlife trafficking.
Being one of the longest-running programs in the region, Belize’s team has expanded its research and implementation of methods and now shares its expertise to improve the conservation of terrestrial and marine conservation.
Learn more about the Belize Country Program
WCS Guatemala has the central principle of working towards the formation of national and local capacities, through the accompaniment of technicians, students, and national experts, and the strengthening of the Guatemalan Civil Society.
WCS has been working for more than 25 years to protect the core of the Maya Forest through a combination of community conservation and law enforcement strategies within the Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR). For example, in the MBR, we have worked with our partners to double the number of protection personnel and nearly double the reporting of environmental crimes, resulting in the recovery of 140,000 hectares from illegal landholders since 2009, and a 65 percent decrease in habitat loss from 2010-2017.
Learn more about the Guatemala Country Program
Honduras and Nicaragua are bi-country programs, meaning they are managed together. It is managed locally with the intention of progressing the conservation efforts both inland and marine areas alike. Working with key partners throughout the years, including the communities and organizations alike, WCS Honduras and Nicaragua strive to support protected areas for many years to come.
This multinational team comes together for the common mission to conserve Nicaragua and Honduras through science-led approaches.
Learn more about the Nicaragua and Honduras Country Program