The theme of this year’s World Wildlife Day, “Forests and livelihoods: sustaining people and planet”, strikes a chord, with important work currently being undertaken by the British Army in preserving habitats in some of the most fragile and precious places on earth.
Nearly a third of the planet’s land surface is covered by forests and woodlands, giving protection and sustenance to a large variety of species, many of them endangered. The Army is working in partnership with experts in key locations across the globe, to support and preserve these valuable ecosystems.
The British Army is custodian to important areas of woodlands and forestry in the UK, as well as jungle canopy overseas, none more so than Belize where 61% of the country is covered by forest canopy. It’s here that British Army Training Support Unit Belize (BATSUB) carries out the Army’s essential Jungle Training.
BATSUB has been working with Panthera, an organisation devoted to mammalian conservation, to develop a monitoring strategy to record wildlife in and around the live firing ranges and assess impacts.
This important research work forms part of a nomination at this years’ Defence Sanctuary Awards - which recognises outstanding conservation and sustainability efforts across the MOD estate, you can watch the film below.
The research carried out in partnership by Panthera and BATSUB has used cameras to monitor local wildlife in order to help assess the impact of military training activity on the environment. Results have shown that thanks to the presence of the British Army, both 1963 and Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserves are flourishing wildlife areas, with high species richness and abundance.
This is in large part because the presence of military training is proving a successful deterrent to illegal poaching and illegal logging in the jungle on the private and government land. Training meanwhile has negligible impact on the wildlife activity patterns, species ecology or behaviours, or even jaguar home range patterns in the area. Thanks to active conservation efforts by the soldiers based there, even the camps are havens for wildlife.
In 2019, funded by the Overseas Stewardship Fund; BATSUB, the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, Belize Defence Force staff and their families, planted 200 trees of 18 different species including mango, craboou, soursop, and custard apple in Price Barracks. The planting scheme follows the success of an earlier project at Manatee Forest Reserve where trees were planted on a former camp location to support its restoration.
By choosing native fruit bearing species, it promoted biodiversity and encouraged Black Howler Monkeys and Spider Monkeys to take up residence here. Sensitive teamwork, in partnership with the Government and Department of the Environment in Belize is actively benefiting people, wildlife and carbon sequestration.