December 7, 2003
Wildlife in Peril

The Sunday Times

by Susan d'Arcy

The future of one of Central America's most important wildlife sites, Chalillo, in Belize, remains uncertain after the privy council, the final court of appeal for Commonwealth countries, failed to rule on plans to construct a controversial dam in the area.

Last week, five appeal judges in London did not find in favour of environmental campaigners. They have "reserved judgment" and say
that their decision is unlikely until some time next year.

Chalillo is fast becoming the Three Gorges of Latin America. Conservationists argue that the building of the 160ft-high hydroelectric dam could wipe out much of the wildlife around the upper Macal River Valley, which would be flooded. This includes 20% of the world's remaining scarlet macaws, as well as rare jaguars, tapirs and crocodiles.

The World Wide Fund for Nature says: "An unblemished wilderness, teeming with exotic flora and fauna, risks being razed to the ground and flushed from the face of the earth."

High-profile protesters include the Hollywood actress Cameron Diaz, who says: "One of our continent's last remaining rainforest habitats is at great risk of being destroyed."

Readers can sign a petition to lobby against the dam at, which is run by a coalition of environmental

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