Lack of vigilance and funding
Naachtún Dos Lagunas has a serious deficiency in personnel and funds. In theory, each of the eight guards is responsible for 6,000 ha, in order to cover the entire 49,500 ha that CECON considers as the biotope's area. In comparison to neighboring El Mirador-Río Azul National Park, where each guard is responsible for 3,000 ha, the situation in Naachtún Dos Lagunas is considerably worse. In the latter, at least one guard is on vacation during four months of the year; park rangers are organized in two groups of four each, which indicates hypothetically that one park ranger is in charge of 12,000 ha.
Infrastructure and resources are minimal and inadequate equipment and old facilities make it hard for guards to do their job. However, there are plans to improve infrastructure and purchase basic equipment in the near future. This support is an effort to protect Naachtún from the rampant archaeological looting occurring in neighboring sites in the MBR. Current patrols are only occasionally bolstered by the assistance of CONAP guards (Bonilla 2001, pers. comm., Barrios 2002, pers. comm.).
Looting of archaeological sites
The most important archaeological sites within the biotope are called Dos Lagunas and Naachtún. Looting has occurred for many decades throughout the entire biotope and surrounding areas of the MBR. ParksWatch documented evidence that serious looting has degraded the majority of both large and small archaeological sites. The existence of stelae and tombs has incited looters to make harmful excavations.
Illegal extraction of forest products
Temporary camps are occasionally established within the biotope for the extraction of non-timber products like xate (Chamaedorea spp.) and chicle (Manilkara achras). The Law for Protected Areas (1989) does authorize the extraction of non-timber products, but only in a manner that does not negatively and permanently alters the ecosystem. Unfortunately, guards are so limited in their ability to patrol the entire biotope that it is almost impossible to verify that the legal regulations are enforced. Nevertheless, during our visit to the northwestern part of the biotope in February 2002, we observed a great abundance of a variety of species of xate, which is a good sign that extraction activities occur only occasionally. Another related problem is hunting by the extractors, although no studies have yet been conducted on this problem.
In recent years, logging has been detected in the northeastern limits of the park, near the Mexican border. This seems to be uncommon, however, as evidenced by our air flight observations made in February of 2002, when we did not detect recent logging activity. Nevertheless, the threat of illegal logging is always present due to the lack of vigilance in the area.
Marijuana (Cannabis sativa) plantations are found inside the park, but the guards cannot prevent or remove them due to the inherent danger of the drug trade. This is a very difficult problem to control because there is no support from - or coordination with - other institutions. Moreover, guards do not carry firearms. The cultivation of drugs makes the administration of the biotope very difficult.
Grazing of Ramón trees
Due to the lack of natural pasture in the biotope, the leaves of the Ramón tree (Brosimum alicastrum) are used as food for mules by xateros and chicleros. However, because of the lack of detailed information, it is difficult to establish the degree of threat that this problem represents.
A Ramón tree (Brosimum alicastrum) whose limbs have been cut to feed mules
Construction of highways
In 1992, the Guatemalan General Ministry of Economic Planning prepared the Development Plan of Petén that proposed to stimulate tourism in the area of El Mirador-Rio Azul National Park and Naachtún Dos Lagunas Biotope (SEGEPLAN 1992). In 1999 the Guatemalan Institute of Anthropology and History developed a tourism development strategy for the Petén until 2015. The strategy includes a highway that connects Flores to the Río Azul section of El Mirador-Rio Azul National Park, and the construction of another highway that would continue the highway to Mexico's Calakmul Biosphere Reserve (IDAEH 1999).
The construction of these highways was supposed to be included within the large-scale tourism development plan called Puebla Panama Plan (Valenzuela 2002, pers. comm.). Although the plan does not include the biotope, it would certainly endanger the integrity of its ecosystems. Thankfully, the National Council of Protected Areas rejected the construction of these highways (see ParksWatch news), but the problem could reappear in the future. According to Valenzuela (2002, pers. comm.), a highway has already been built on the Mexican side in Calakmul, and there exists strong political pressure to continue the highway through Guatemala and the MBR.