What to Bring Along

  • Hiking shoes
  • Water
  • Long sleeve shirt and long lightweight pants
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen
  • Insect repellant
  • Snacks
  • Intensity: Moderate
  • Duration: 6 hours (approx.)

In the early 1980’s, concern for the jaguars of Belize was raised from two different places. James Hyde, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Natural Resources had been approached by a concerned citrus farmer who had encountered jaguars in his orchard. At the same time, Archie Carr III, Assistant Director of the International Division of the New York Zoological Society, ran across references to jaguars in Belize in hunting magazines. He was in contact with Dora Weyer and asked if BAS would like a study of jaguars in Belize. Alan Rabinowitz, a graduate student at the time, was commissioned to determine the jaguar population.

Through Dr. Alan Rabinowitz’s ecological study conducted between 1982 and 1984, it was observed that the Cockscomb Basin contained the highest density of jaguars ever recorded. Therefore, in 1984, the area was initially declared a forest reserve with a “No Hunting” ordinance to protect the large jaguar population and other wildlife that makes this jungle their home. However, after much concern that the Cockscomb Basin Forest Reserve was not protecting the jaguars’ habitat, a small portion of the Reserve was declared a wildlife sanctuary on February 26, 1986.

Ignacio Pop and his son, Pedro, were hired as the first wardens. On February 6, 1988, His Royal Highness Prince Philip, International President of the World Wildlife Fund, visited Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. He presented an award to Ignacio Pop and planted a mahogany tree.

Over the years, the Sanctuary has expanded from 3,600 acres to 128,000 acres. The Maya Mountain extension in the south connects Cockscomb with Bladen Nature Reserve. This makes a continuous corridor of protected areas totaling 250,000 acres.

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary (CBWS) is recognized internationally as the world’s first jaguar preserve. It is also known for its spectacular waterfalls, mountain views, nature trails, and rich diversity of geo tropical birds. The tracks of wildcats, tapir, deer, and other wildlife are often seen on hiking trails or along the bank of South Stann Creek.

People who understand the value of Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary know that it is much more than a natural area set aside for jaguars. The area was also designated to protect the upper watersheds of important river systems that deliver ecosystem services to people. Cockscomb has two distinctive basins, which are separated by a ridge of land. The East Basin drains into South Stann Creek and the West Basin drains into Swasey River, a tributary of Monkey River. In the Maya Mountain extension of the Sanctuary is Trio Branch, this ultimately drains into Monkey River Watershed.

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is a reservoir for biodiversity. Hundreds of species of plants with exotic leaves and flowers, colorful insects, singing birds, furry mammals, scaly reptiles, and wide-eyed amphibians live in this complex tropical forest community. Each one has a function that serves the community as a whole. Each one is adapted to the conditions that make the community unique.