Laguna del Tigre is a critically threatened area that is not successfully meeting its biodiversity conservation objectives. The area has been neglected for many years, which has favored all kinds of illegal activities that are very difficult to restrain. If emergency actions are not implemented, the area might lose most of its values in a very short time.
Permanent human intervention and lack of governability have brought about the depletion of the habitat, and forest fires and hunting are the main direct threats to the conservation of the three globally endangered species that inhabit the protected area. At least half of the high-quality habitat for Baird's tapir (Tapirus bairdii) and howler monkey (Alouatta pigra) is severely endangered, and the populations of all three species may have dwindled or completely vanished from the central and southern parts of the park and around the most populated sites, according to information collected for this report. Notwithstanding the above, the information about the present status of the three species is merely anecdotal, and there is not a clear understanding of the effects of the main threats upon them. The maps that were developed for this study, analyzing habitat quality potential and threats, suggest that the regions with better conservation perspectives are in the northern and eastern parts of Laguna del Tigre National Park and surrounding areas, on the corridor that links the park with Mirador Río Azul and the MBR's multiple-se zone.
Staff and budget restrictions limited the control of the park and the biotope in the past. Nevertheless, the important boost granted to Laguna del Tigre's budget in 2004 has shown that more funds do not equal success if the pertinent laws are not enforced. Although at present the surveillance staff has been increased by 100% and the Defense and Restoration of Laguna del Tigre National Park Committee has fostered the participation of the most important stakeholders, the most optimist perspectives reveal that the area might lose between 40 and 50% of the surface to the hands of trespassers that have usurped the area since its creation. However, it is a fact that the park has improved a great deal in the last few years and that the present authorities have shown determination to face the most critical threats to the park, even though the challenges are massive.
Decision-makers consider permanent human intervention as one of the most critical issues, and their approach to the problem is not as strong or unwavering as it should be. Illegal settlements in the core zones of the MBR have not been evicted regardless of Decree 5-90 expressly forbidding them. The subscription of permanent agreements with illegal settlers prevents social upheavals in Laguna del Tigre but does not solve the problem. This evident weakness only increases the protected area's ambiguity.
CONAP's actual ability to control the activities carried out by the illegal settlers of Laguna del Tigre is ineffective because it lacks political support and adequate staff and funds. When comparing the information of Laguna del Tigre with other areas in the MBR, it is evident that the budget of the former is one-fifth of the latter's and that it has half the staff of Tikal National Park. In this context, the subscription of agreements of permanence with illegal settlers is not the answer to the problem; it only further destabilizes the protection prescription. In the same fashion, the natural escalations of the populations that have settled in the area and the uncertainty about the budget for Laguna del Tigre beginning in 2006 are two more problems that must be added to the area's unclear future.
This assessment shows that most of the problems faced by Laguna del Tigre are very critical and are having substantial negative impacts on the area. The illegally established population has increased by more than 600% since the area was created and the lack of governability has grown similarly. Data show that the deforestation rate for the last two years has increased to almost 2%, which shows that the habitat is rapidly deteriorating due to direct loss or fragmentation. The greatest threat to the area is forest fires, and these have already affected more than half of Laguna del Tigre's surface. Decisions regarding the management and investments in Laguna del Tigre must therefore be carefully approached.