The Rapid Response Facility (RRF) has awarded Belizean conservation group Wildtracks with a grant to assess proposed dredging and mangrove clearance within Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, affecting what may be the only breeding location for the critically endangered smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) in Belize.

Corozal Bay and the adjacent Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve, which forms part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (BBRRS), a UNESCO natural World Heritage site; are known as ecologically and economically important fish nurseries feeding into the wider ecosystem.

RRF funding will enable Wildtracks to secure independent biological data to inform an Environmental Impact Assessment to ensure that development, if permitted, is implemented with appropriate safeguards for biodiversity, in particular smalltooth sawfish, if its presence is confirmed in the affected areas. Other practical actions will include local awareness-raising regarding the importance of the site and threatened species dependent on it.

This is the second RRF grant to be awarded to the BBRRS in recent months, after an emergency small grant was given to the Ya'axché Conservation Trust at the start of 2010 to assess the potential impacts of unregulated dam building.

The BBRRS was inscribed onto the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2009 due to development pressures contributing to the destruction of mangrove islands.

The Rapid Response Facility is an emergency small grant programme that provides rapid support to allow immediate responses to major threats to wildlife conservation, primarily in UNESCO-designated natural World Heritage sites. The RRF is financially supported by the United Nations Foundation, the Arcadia Land Trust and Jet tours, and aims to process emergency funding requests up to US$30,000 in just 8 working days. 

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