SAN IGNACIO, Cayo District, Thurs. Feb. 1, 2018– Three Guatemalan men have been remanded to the Belize Central Prison after they were found with illegal weapons inside the Chiquibul Forest Reserve on Sunday.
A joint patrol conducted by the Friends for Conservation (FCD) and Development, Chiquibul National Park Rangers, Belize Defence Force and Special Patrol Unit found the men shortly after midday in some nearby corn fields.
They were identified as Roni Alexander Lopez, Abraham Estevan Depaz and Encarnacion Depaz, all from Dolores, Peten, in Guatemala.
They were each found with a 20-gauge shotgun in their possession. Lopez was also found with 3 live rounds of 20-gauge ammunition while Abraham Estevan Depaz was found with 2 live rounds of 20-gauge ammunition; and Encarnacion Depaz was found with 4 live rounds of 20-gauge ammunition and 1 live round of 16-gauge ammunition.
Additionally, in their possession were a horse and a dead gibnut. According to the men, they were all hunting when they were found.
The men were then transported out of the southern Cebada, where they were found, to Millonario Camp and then to Tapir Camp before being handed over to San Ignacio police on Monday night.
On Wednesday, the men appeared in the Benque Viejo Del Carmen Magistrate’s Court before Emmertice Emmerita Anderson to answer to firearm and ammunition charges.
The men pleaded not guilty and were remanded to prison until March 29.
Today, Thursday, the men appeared in the San Ignacio Magistrate’s Court before Magistrate Aretha Ford to answer to the charge of entering a national park illegally. They pleaded not guilty and met bail of $1,000 but were still returned to prison for the other firearm-related offences.
In a statement released by the FCD, it noted that hunting of wildlife in the Chiquibul Forest has been prominent in the western flank of the Chiquibul National Park. However, in 2016, there was less evidence of hunting when compared to 2013.
The FCD says this dramatic reduction may be attributed to the decrease of illegal xate extraction and the ending of illegal logging in the Chiquibul Forest.