Chalillo dam proposal in Belize

Belize Zoo photo

Environment: Fortis' Dam threatens endangered species

Jaguars: A "festering wound" in one of the largest intact jaguar sites

1 The area that would be flooded lies adjacent to the Cockscomb Basin Reserve, the only nature reserve in the world set aside specifically for jaguar protection.

2 The dam would destroy important feeding areas for the jaguar, would fragment its habitat, and would be a "festering wound" in one of the largest intact jaguar sites in the world.{1}

Tapir: A threat to one of the few remaining strongholds of tapir habitat

1 The tapir, Belize's national animal, is an ancient relative of the horse, and one of Central America's most unusual animals.

2 The Tapir Action Plan by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) identifies the Upper Raspaculo River, in the Macal River Valley, as critical habitat for the Central American tapir. Studies have found healthy tapir populations in this area, in contrast to the majority of its former range in Central America, where its habitat has been destroyed or fragmented by development.

3 The IUCN Tapir Action plan identifies construction of a dam on the Upper Raspaculo River as a "serious threat" to the tapir's habitat.

4 Both the U.S.-based Tapir Preservation Fund, and the IUCN's Tapir Specialist Group have expressed their concern that the dam could put remaining tapir populations at risk.{2}

Scarlet Macaws: Fewer than 250 of these birds remain in Belize

5 The Scarlet Macaw, is a large, brightly colored parrot which is threatened by poaching and habitat destruction. The subspecies found in Belize is very highly endangered: only 1000 individuals of this subspecies are found in all of Guatemala, Belize and Mexico. It is estimated that there are fewer than 250 Scarlet Macaws remaining in Belize.

6 Scarlet Macaws nest in specialized trees that are found almost exclusively in the habitat that would be flooded. This could eliminate the breeding population in Belize.{3}

Other species: spider monkeys, Solitary eagle, river otter, and more

1 More than a dozen other rare and threatened species, identified by a panel of world-renowned tropical ecologists would be affected by the Chalillo dam.

Tropical Ecologists Call for Independent Panel:

1 Biologists and experts in tropical ecology, including David Suzuki, Fiona Reid, Peter Raven, and Paul Ehrlich call the environmental damage from the dam "significant and long lasting". They are calling for Fortis and CIDA to form an independent scientific committee to design studies to determine the full impacts of the Chalillo dam and review the final studies.

2 Canada's Environmental Assessment Agency guidelines specify the need for such a panel in cases where: "it is uncertain whether the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects; or the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects and it is uncertain whether these effects are justified in the circumstances; or public concerns warrant it."{4}

3 Fortis and CIDA have, to date, refused all requests to make public their plans for environmental studies, or to create an independent scientific panel.


{1} Letter by Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, Director of Science at the Wildlife Conservation. He was instrumental in establishing the Cockscomb Reserve

{2} Letters from Sheryl Todd, President, Tapir Preservation Fund; Sharon Matola, Chairperson, Tapir Specialist Group

{3} Katherine Renton, 1998; Letter from Eduardo Inigo, 2000

{4} Web site