Bladen Nature Reserve, in the Toldedo District, is a protected area of caves, sinkholes, pristine streams and rivers, undisturbed old growth rain forest and an abundance of highly diverse flora and fauna which includes a great deal of rare and endemic species.
Often called the crown jewel of Belize’s protected areas, Bladen is considered to be one of the most biodiversity-rich, and geographically unique areas within the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. At 99,796 acres, Bladen forms a significant portion of the Key Biodiversity Area of the Maya Mountains.
At its most sheltered points, west of the rugged karst (limestone) hills, Bladen has protection from many of the destructive storms that hit the Caribbean coastline, resulting in a forest with a little-disturbed structure, tall trees of impressive stature and intact ecosystems. The large number of ecosystems encompassed within the nature reserve highlights its importance as a strictly protected conservation area.
Within the Maya Mountains, Bladen forms a crucial link between Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary to the northeast and Columbia River Forest Reserve to the southwest. Chiquibul National Park and Forest Reserve lie to the northwest, connecting to the protected areas system in Guatemala. With the rapid clearance of forested areas throughout Central America, this is part of the last remaining large, relatively intact block of forest within the region.
This large expanse of primarily forested uplands and valleys is essential for the survival of species such as the jaguar, scarlet macaw, white-lipped peccary and harpy eagle, which need large contiguous forest stretches in order to maintain viable populations.