The Shipstern Conservation & Management Area is located in the very North-East of Belize in the District of Corozal. Established in 1989, it was officially opened by the Minister of Natural Resources in September 1990. It is composed of two entities: one large parcel surrounding the Shipstern Lagoon, and a smaller entirely forested area around the Xo-Pol ponds, to the West of the main bulk. On October 31st, 2012, the Shipstern C&MA was as a trust declared in perpetuity for the benefit of the People and Government of Belize.
The Shipstern C&MA has long been recognized as one of the key protected areas of Belize, as it protects an array of rare habitats, some of them unique for Belize. The forests in and around Shipstern have been regenerating with almost no disturbance ever since Hurricane Janet destroyed the entire area in 1955. Thus although they are still secondary in stature, the forests of Shipstern can be considered as pristine.
The Fauna of Shipstern, thanks to two decades of protection, is still very diverse and fairly abundant. Peccaries, curassows and deer roam the forests and savannahs, being precious prey to jaguar and puma. The other three cat species of Belize are also all present. The Keel-billed toucan is still abundant, as are several species of parrots, and many related species of the Yucatan peninsula. Also worth mentioning are the American Woodstorks that returned in 1992 and now regularly nest in great numbers in Shipstern Lagoon. Another rarity is the black Catbird, of which Shipstern is still the only known mainland habitat.
The Flora of Shipstern is equally diverse. It is the only location in Belize where the medium-sized semi-deciduous Yucatan forest can be found, alongside an even rarer forest known as the Kuka Palm Yucatan coastal dry forest. This forest type is not only extremely rare in Belize (only to be found in Shipstern and Bacalar Chico NP), it is also confined to only four small areas in the whole of the Yucatan Peninsula.