Transboundary conservation in the Selva Maya through park ranger exchanges

Selva Maya Programme GIZ
Published: 27 October 2015
Last edited: 10 July 2019
remove_red_eye 2809 Views


Through the exchange of park rangers from two natural protected areas of global importance at the border of Guatemala and Mexico, managers of these advanced in the identification of common challenges and developed joint agendas. As a result, both sides implemented concrete bi-national actions improving communication, control and surveillance strategies, reducing threats to regional biodiversity and hence elevating the transboundary protected area governance.


Central America
North America
Scale of implementation
Forest ecosystems
Temperate evergreen forest
Connectivity / transboundary conservation
Ecosystem services
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Indigenous people
Legal & policy frameworks
World Heritage
Other theme
Policy and legislation, Management planning, Science and research
Inefficient management of financial resources
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Poor governance and participation


Guatemala and Mexico
Show on Protected Planet


Lack of legal framework, limited communication and collaborative safeguarding were the three major challenges. The two protected areas face the same challenges but lack the legal framework to cooperate. Efforts to protect the natural heritage and ecosystem services are parallel rather than coordinated. Hence communication is limited and resources are used inefficiently. Additionally the linear extension of the border is significant, demanding the improvement of collaborative efforts to safeguard it.


Local communities in and around the protected areas and park rangers.

How do the building blocks interact?

Although the Selva Maya, shared by Belize, Guatemala and Mexico, has been recognized for its global importance, there are few efforts to elucidate that this ecosystem is shared by three countries. A more collaborative approach and awareness therefore need to be in place to reduce the existing threats inside and around numerous protected areas. Transboundary exchanges among park rangers between two bordering protected areas are useful to recognize the main problems they share and what specific actions should be developed. It also gives the opportunity for rangers and managers to learn from each other and exchange experiences. Building a common collaborative platform through workshops helps to put together a joint action plan which is subsequently implemented. To increase the capacity of the rangers, several workshops are conducted to tackle specific training needs like fire suppression and biological monitoring. Along with the technical exchange it is crucial to raise political awareness and lay the groundwork for legal agreements through political stakeholder groups at an institutional level above the protected areas.


Improved coordination between the management authorities of both natural protected areas. Based on a common plan and a shared working agenda, there is more communication between local authorities that facilitates appropriate decision making and effective protection. This in turn benefits the integrity of the ecosystem and its services. Improved institutional presence and strengthened capacities within the communities along the border. Both protected areas dedicate their time and personnel more efficiently to generate environmental awareness about the importance and benefits of protecting this shared forest. Strengthened capacities of park rangers on key aspects like fire management and biodiversity monitoring. Through specific trainings and exchanges, park rangers have improved their capacities and developed common strategies to reduce impacts of illegal hunting, fires and illegal logging. A joint monitoring program for key species like jaguars, tapirs, and others has also been developed. This in turn reduces illegal activities like poaching and leads to a better understanding of the wildlife population dynamics of target species


Paco Asturias the director of the protected area on the Guatemalan side is a dedicated man with the mission to protect his forest, the heart of the Selva Maya. Paco spends much time in the forest, supervising his park rangers as well as planning surveillance and monitoring schedules. He is constantly aware that the resources he has available are limited and the challenges seemingly endless. However, ever since the exchange with Mexico started, he knows that the neighbors up north face the same challenges, maybe even greater ones. And since they work together, the overall surveillance and monitoring is more effective because the park rangers from both sides combine forces along the border. Paco can see his park rangers` motivation rise when joint activities with Mexico are planned and they get to exchange their challenges with colleagues from a different but yet so similar park. Even more so, when the directors of the protected areas commission on either side of each county come together as part of the strategic group, he can see the appreciation the rangers feel and the motivation it gives the entire team. His own personal motivation is boosted as well - seeing the increase in efficiency of the surveillance, the number of detected illegal activities and the rising capacity of his staff, he is content and has hope for the future of the Selva Maya and it´s heritage.

Contributed by

Rudy Herrera Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH

Other contributors

Rudy Herrera
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH