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  • Employee from FundaEco examines remnants left by illegal loggers in the Mirador Rio Azul National Park in Peten region in Guatemala. Feb. 10 2019

    Employee from FundaEco examines remnants left by illegal loggers in the Mirador Rio Azul National Park in Peten region in Guatemala. Feb. 10 2019 | Photo: FundaEco

Published 11 February 2019

An protect forest area extraordinarily rich in "natural and cultural heritage is being illegally plundered by Mexican loggers.

The Guatemalan environmental group Foundation for Ecodevelopment and Conservation (FundaEco) is denouncing illegal Mexican loggers for extracting hardwood trees that take decades to mature from two national parks.

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Illegal loggers have been removing hectares from the Mirador Rio Azul National Park and Dos Lagunas national parks, located in the bio-diverse hotspot in the Peten region that meets Mexico’s southern border.

Francisco Asturias, director of FundaEco in Peten tells local media that the organization has been warning authorities since last August about the illegal deforestation.

"The problem is very serious. It has slowed a bit with the captures (of the loggers) carried out last year, but they continue to enter Guatemala," said Asturias.

Between July and August of 2018 joint patrols by the Guatemalan government's Division of Nature Protection (Diprona), the National Police and the Guatemalan Army captured Mexican woodcutters.

The type of wood exploited in the area is mainly and oak-like wood and to a lesser extent cedar and mahogany, which has been on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) list since 2003. According to the ecologists this particular oak species is highly valued by Chinese manufacturers for yachts, which is a driver of the illegal extraction.

In August a small camp with chainsaws and food was found, as well as cleared forest between Mexico and the protected areas in Guatemala.

The Mirador Rio Azul National Park is ​​116,911 hectares in size and the adjacent Dos Lagunas 30,719 hectares. The vast area, considered one of Mesoamerica’s most diverse regions, is protected by the Guatemalan National Council of Protected Areas (Conap), the Center for Conservation Studies (Cecon) at the University of San Carlos in Guatemala City and FundaEco.

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Conap studies of Mirador say that the park contains an "extraordinary combination of natural and cultural heritage", as there are four archaeological sites within it. There is at least one known site in Dos Lagunas.

Firearms have also been seized by authorities in the area and FundaEco itself has detected illegal hunting in the high forest region of these protected areas home to endangered or at risk species such as the jaguar, howler monkey and tapir.

Conap says that in order to effectively protect the two parks, at least 50 guards are needed. Currently, there are four.

Asturias says his organization has requested help from the army to patrol the massive forests but they national units say they need to be provided with fuel and food to carry out the mission.

Environmental groups in Guatemala say there is little state presence along the forested border area and that loggers and poachers are taking advantage of the lack of policy enforcement against these illegal extractors in the region.

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