The Corozal Sustainable Future Initiative (CSFI) is a Belizean not for profit NGO, duly registered and audited. It is neutral and non-political, and considers itself as a support system towards the conservation of Belize natural diversity. Our board is composed of both leading Belizean and foreign conservationists by trade or at heart. Our philosophy is to remain at all times a strictly field-based organization.Mission History Board Partners
The Corozal Sustainable Future Initiative is an innovative non-governmental organization dedicated to the protection and conservation of key representative ecosystems of north-eastern Belize through co-management agreements, effective vigilance, sustainable forest management, scientific research, environmental education, community engagement and strategic alliances. Our ultimate goal is the creation of new sustainable economic models around protected areas for the benefit of the people of Belize.
Our conservation efforts aim to preserve representative habitats of high conservation value and their fauna and flora, in a context where these now disappear rapidly. This is achieved by providing effective surveillance to CSFI’s protected areas held in trust for the benefit of the People and Government of Belize (and included in the National Protected Areas System of Belize), or through the co-management of official protected areas of the Government of Belize, in collaboration with the authorities. In parallel, efforts are continuously made to ensure the connection of key habitats with other natural systems of Belize, through the creation of biological corridors.
Forests as gene pools
Conservation is not only about animals. Over the past few years, much effort was invested into understanding and mapping CSFI’s forests, while analysing their current state. In the process, CSFI was able to find the last mother-trees of Mahogany within the former Freshwater Creek Forest Reserve, now encompassed in the Northern Biological Corridor. It produced thousands of seedlings that were replanted in natural clearings and illegally opened fields. Our end goal is to make sure that the genetic pool of local Mahoganies and other hardwood species continues to thrive, and that CSFI’s forests in effect becomes the seed-bank of North-eastern Belize.
CSFI has over the past few years developed tourism activities around the local nature and culture. Its strives to make tourism fair and responsible, ensuring that income generated benefits all partners involved, and that profits remain within the area, be it with partners in the local communities or reinvestments via CSFI’s conservation & social development programs/activities.
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The Corozal Sustainable Future Initiative (CSFI) was officially created in 2012. It was originally known as Shipstern Nature Reserve (Belize) Ltd (not for profit), and was renamed to match both scope and diversity of present and future activities.
Shipstern Nature Reserve was created in 1989 at the impulse of the International Tropical Conservation Fund, an NGO based at the Papiliorama Zoo of Switzerland and the Royal Burgers’ Zoo in Arnhem, Netherlands. Today, this private protected area has become a trust for the People and the Government of Belize, and is now known as the Shipstern Conservation and Management Area.
CSFI is a Belizean NGO, not for profit, duly registered and audited. Its board is composed of both leading Belizean and foreign conservationists by trade or at heart. Although its legal seat is in Belize City, CSFI has traditionally been a field-based organization, and its offices are currently still located at the very heart of the Shipstern Conservation and Management Area, in the Corozal District.
The name Shipstern reportedly derives from a village within Shipstern forest that was abandoned after the devastating passage of Hurricane Janet in 1955. It may have designated a point in the Lagoon where logging boats could go no further (“ship’s turn”), but other origins for the name are known locally. The name Shipstern today references not only the lagoon, but also the forest where the village used to be, as well as to the unexcavated Mayan ceremonial centre just south-west of Shipstern, in the North-eastern Biological Corridor.
In 1986, the parcel of land which was to become Shipstern was purchased by English businessman and butterfly enthusiast Clive Farrell. He created (at a site that today still harbours CSFI’s Headquarters) a butterfly production centre designed to supply various butterfly exhibits in the United Kingdom. In 1989, unable to sustain further the costs of maintaining and protecting such a large area, he sold the land to the freshly created International Tropical Conservation Fund. Although butterfly production was continued for a few years, the strong dry season of North-eastern Belize made the operation economically unviable. The original breeding area is now an exhibit which still produces some butterflies for tourism purposes.
The Board of Directors of the Corozal Sustainable Future Initiative (CSFI) is composed of leading Belizean and foreign conservationists, both by trade or at heart. Some of CSFI’s directors have been with the organization ever since its inception in 1989. All directors work on a voluntary basis, and meet at least once a year. In between meetings, they are regularly kept abreast on any developments pertaining to CSFI’s activities.
Probably one of the most well-known conservationists of Belize, Janet Gibson was instrumental in the creation of numerous marine protected areas along Belize’s Barrier Reef. In 1994-1996, in collaboration with the International Tropical Conservation Fund (CSFI’s main partner and funder) she made possible the creation of the Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve.
One of Belize’s leading marine scientists, Melanie McField has been a director ever since the creation of Shipstern Nature Reserve (now known as Shipstern Conservation and Management Area). In the early years, Melanie McField personally oversaw and supervised its management.
A friend of Shipstern ever since its inception, Philip Zuniga is another renowned lawyer in Belize, and a former President of the Belizean Senate. For more than twenty years, Philip Zuniga carried out all the legal work pertaining to CSFI’s activities in Belize on a voluntary basis, as (in his own words) “my contribution to the natural beauty of my country”.
A renowned lawyer in Belize, Rodwell Williams was instrumental in ensuring that Shipstern Nature Reserve became a trust in perpetuity for the benefit of the People of Belize. Aware of the importance of preserving the most outstanding habitats of his country, Rodwell became a Director of CSFI at the very moment the new entity was legally born.
One of the founding members of the WWF Netherland in the 1960s, Maarten Bijleveld has been a conservationist all his life. After working at WWF International and at the IUCN, he created the Papiliorama Zoo in Switzerland in 1988. In 1989, he deemed it essential to link the zoo with a protected area in the tropics. He thus created and still is the president of the International Tropical Conservation Fund (ITCF), which in turn created Shipstern Nature Reserve.
The apple never falling far from the tree, Caspar Bijleveld has collaborated with his father both at Papiliorama and with the Shipstern project. After having lived in Belize for almost two years and carrying out his Masters’ thesis at Shipstern, he has been ITCF’s project coordinator since 1997. In 2001, he became the director of the Papiliorama Zoo, taking over the responsibility for fundraising within the ITCF, while remaining its project coordinator.
Alex van Hooff is the director of the Royal Burgers’ Zoo in Arnhem, Netherlands, one of the largest zoos in Europe and a pioneer/leader in displaying whole ecosystems under one roof. His father Anton was a long-time friend of Shipstern before his untimely death in 2006. Alex van Hooff is a member of the board of the ITCF, and has been instrumental in financing many special projects for CSFI and Shipstern.
In Belize, CSFI works in close collaboration with several authorities. Most of the rangers of CSFI are special constables and official Forest Department representatives in the field. When conducting patrols in sensitive areas, CSFI often works in conjunction with the Belize Police Force or the Belize Defence Force, especially when large-scale illegal logging or suspected drug-related illegal activities are encountered. Joint routine patrols are also occasionally carried out.
Although CSFI is a strictly Belizean NGO, it is strongly linked to Europe and more recently to the United States of America. The main partner and funding organization of CSFI is the International Tropical Conservation Fund (ITCF), a conservation NGO created and backed by zoological gardens.
Created by the Papiliorama Zoo of Kerzers (Switzerland) in 1989, the ITCF is a small non-profit organization, that aims at conserving tropical nature in a most concrete and practical way. The ITCF also exists in the Netherlands, where it was created by the Royal Burgers’ Zoo in Arnhem. Finally, the ITCF is also incorporated in the United States as a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, in partnership with Climatepath. Overheads for the ITCF are minimal and covered by hosting zoos, while individual donors are guaranteed that 100% of their contribution is invested in the field. Other zoos in Europe have joined the project and now regularly support CSFI.
For the past 27 years, the Shipstern Conservation & Management Area has been the main focus of the ITCF, and its largest project. In 1996, ITCF was instrumental in the creation of the Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve, with the financial help of the European Union.Visit Website
The Papiliorama Foundation, located in Kerzers (Switzerland), is a hybrid between a zoo and a botanical garden. Its main mission is to put visitors in direct contact with plants and animals and give them the opportunity to enjoy a sample of the beauty and diversity of our planet’s nature. Whilst in the large exhibits the focus is on tropical fauna and flora, from butterfly ballets to the mysterious world of nocturnal animals, Papiliorama’s natural outdoor gardens showcase the richness of local biodiversity.
The zoo is divided in four main exhibits, namely a tropical butterfly dome, a nocturnal dome where night and day cycles are reversed, a jungle dome, which is an exact copy of the forests of Shipstern, and a large outdoor gardens. The Belize project has been a pillar of Papiliorama’s philosophy ever since its inception.Visit Website
The Royal Burgers’ Zoo is one of the largest zoos in the Netherlands, welcoming over a million and half visitors annually. In 1988, it opened Burgers’ Bush, a giant greenhouse devoted to tropical forests, and the first of its kind in Europe. Today, it is still a reference worldwide. Burgers ‘Zoo was at the origin of the concept of “eco-displays”, in other words exhibits that show whole habitats, complete with fauna and flora.
Besides the Bush, the zoo has created a Sonoran desert, a very large aquarium, an Asian display as well as an African safari. In 2017 it opened a Belizean inspired exhibit, Burgers’ Mangrove, with West Indian Manatees and many other species. The vegetation in the dome is strongly inspired by the drier forests of Shipstern. The new dome serves as an important fundraising tool for CSFI’s activities.Visit Website
With over 1.000 species of animals, Wilhelma is one of the most species-rich zoos in the world. In addition, more than 7.000 species of plants adorn its botanical garden.Find out more
Walter Zoo has been an important attraction ever since its creation in 1961. 1’100 animals in 130 species makes an adventurous experience.Find out more
Cologne Zoo is one of the largest and oldest zoos in Germany. Established in 1860, it has long been renowned for its progressive and innovative husbandry of animals.Find out more
Located in the Puy-de-Dome region of France, the Parc animalier d’Auvergne is home to approximately 350 animals in over 70 species. Through its charity La Passerelle Conservation, the park strives to contribute to the conservation of nature.Find out more