Why This Tiny Central American Nation Is Hailed As A Conservation Giant

by Khaila Gentle

Words like “conservation”, “sustainability”, and “eco-friendly” have become pretty buzzworthy over the past few years. But amidst all the trends and the more-than-occasional greenwashing, there’s one nation that stands out when it comes to the preservation of Mother Nature. On World Conservation Day, here’s why tiny Belize has been continuously regarded as a giant in conservation.

Belize: A Conservation Success Story 

The Nature Conservancy has hailed the country of Belize as a role model when it comes to climate and biodiversity action. Though just about the size of the state of New Jersey, the Central American Nation has made giant leaps in protecting its forests, oceans, and wildlife. 

Coral reefs can recover without human intervention, but more slowly. Amid warming seas, they may need all the help they can get (Credit: Fragments of Hope)

In November of 2021, Belize – already known as the home of the world’s only jaguar preserve – solidified its place in the world of conservation leaders when it signed a historic blue bond. Through the Blue Bond Agreement, Belize would be able to convert its debt into marine conservation efforts. And, Belize was the first country in the Americas to make such an agreement. 


“The conservation significance is similarly impressive—Belize’s investment will drive US$180 million back into the conservation of its marine ecosystems over the next two decades.”

The Nature Conservancy 


Long before the Blue Bond came around though, Belize had already been making huge efforts towards the conservation of its marine environment. In 2009, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System was placed on UNESCO’s list of sites “In Danger”.  This was due to the degradation of the reef system caused by the destruction of mangrove forests, harmful fishing practices, pollution, coastal development, and the possibility of offshore drilling. 

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By June 2018, however,  Belize had done the necessary work to have the Barrier Reef taken off of the list. That included banning all offshore drilling, regulating the cutting of mangroves, and making plans to ban all single-use plastics

Truly Lean Into Sustainable Travel When in Belize 

Verdant vistas await at Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo by Kevin Quischan Photography

To say that nature is valuable to Belize would be an understatement. According to The Nature Conservancy, 209,000 visitors are drawn to Belize annually, where they spend US$81 million. Beyond the world of tourism though, countless Belizeans rely on the country’s natural resources for sustenance, subsistence, and their livelihoods. As such, it comes without question that conserving Mother Nature’s bounty for future generations to come is of the utmost importance to Belizeans. 


Tourism—an estimated 25 percent of which is reef based—generates 41 percent of the national income.


Eco-travel, slow travel, regenerative travel: regardless of the name it goes by, conscious and responsible travel is the future. Now, more than ever, being mindful of the impacts our travels can have on the environment is a must. This is especially the case as the world continues to grapple with the disastrous effects of climate change. 

With Roughly 26% (2.6 million acres, or 1.22 million hectares) of its land and sea preserved within a total of 95 reserves, though, it’s safe to say that Belize is off to an amazing start. 

Featured Photo by the Belize Tourism Board. 

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