Wildtracks: Conservation, Research and Education

Wildlife and Ecosystems

Fireburn Reserve encompasses a broad range of habitats, giving rise to a high diversity of wildlife.

Fireburn forest. Ceiba tree in the forest at Fireburn.


A band of mangrove runs along the eastern edge of Shipstern Lagoon, with an area of saline savanna behind this to the east. These wetland areas are important for many bird species, both migratory and resident, including the blue-winged teal (Anas discors), American coot (Fulica americana), osprey (Pandion haliaetus), black catbird (Melanoptila glabrirostris) and white-winged dove (Zenaida asiatica). Also found in these areas are mammals such as the white-tailed deer and racoon.

Further from the lagoon the savanna gives way to forest ecosystems, interspersed with swamps and a freshwater pond.

The forested areas of the reserve are dominated by seasonal broad-leaved lowland forest, harbouring a wealth of plant and animal species. Many hardwood trees such as mahogany, santa maria and poisonwood grow here, as well as several palms and many understory species. Areas that were farmed in recent years often contain the cohune palm (Attalea cohune), and in some places the cohune forms dense stands.

A great number of birds are found within the forest, including the great curassow (Crax rubra). Mammal species in these forested areas include all five of Belize’s cat species – the jaguar, puma, ocelot, margay and jaguarundi - red brocket deer, while-lipped and collared peccary, agoutis, pacas, coatis, kinkajous, tamandua, tayra and many others.

The freshwater pond in the north east corner of the reserve attracts many wading birds, crocodiles and tapir. During the rainy season frogs and toads congregate for breeding, and during the dry season it becomes an important source of water to many species such as peccaries, deer and cats.

Ecosystem map

Fireburn Reserve benefits from some of the highest-resolution ecosystem mapping in Belize. The ecosystem map is based primarily on fieldwork carried out for Wildtracks by Lindsay Maskell in 1999, supported by members of a Raleigh International expedition.

The project produced a detailed map of the ecosystems of the Reserve, using specific habitat descriptions unique to Fireburn. These classifications have subsequently been brought into line with the UNESCO standard ecosystem types used across the rest of Belize: this makes the map more useful to the wider conservation community, albeit at the cost of some detail. Wildtracks continues to use the more detailed mapping for management purposes – such as selecting suitable release sites for troops of rehabilitated howler monkeys.

 Reserve ecosystem map

Ecosystems of Fireburn Reserve (click to enlarge)

The project also yielded detailed maps of previous landuse within Fireburn Reserve. For access to this and printable copies of the ecosystem map, please get in touch with us.