Beetle on leaf in Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve.

Tapir Mountain
Nature Reserve


Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve is one of the few areas protecting the biological diversity of the Maya Mountain northern foothills ecosystem. Subtropical and tropical moist forests provide important habitat for birds and other wildlife including Baird's tapir, Belize's national animal.

Located in the Cayo District of Belize, this 6,471 acre reserve is dominated by rugged limestone hills with numerous caves and sinkholes. Actun Tunichil Muknal Natural Monument, an impressive cave with Maya artifacts, borders the Reserve.

HeleconiaTapir Mountain Nature Reserve has been set aside as a scientific reserve for the protection of nature, be it biological communities or species, and to maintain natural processes in an undisturbed state in order to have ecologically representative examples of the natural environment available for scientific study, monitoring, education, and the maintenance of genetic resources.

An excellent education manual was made to help community members, students, and teachers learn more about Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve, Belize's national symbols, tropical ecosystems, plants, wildlife, and more. Download a free copy here.
Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve and Tropical Forests Conservation Manual

The History of Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve

The area was bought in 1974 from the Sibun Land Development Company by a couple wanting to manage it as a private reserve. Mrs. Dietrich-Ward explained that when they bought the land in 1974, there was no National Parks System Act on the books. So they put the land down as Society Hall Nature Reserve, which they gave to Government, except for 300 acres they had sold and 50 acres which they kept for themselves.

Society Hall Nature Reserve was included among the protected areas the BAS managed. Statutory Instrument No. 108 of 1986, gazetted December 6, 1986, cited as the “Nature Reserve Reservation (Society Hall) Order, 1986,” declared the area specified in the schedule to be a Nature Reserve. The Government then leased the land back to the Wards and that lease was transferred into the name of the BAS in August of 1990. The name was changed to Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve (TMNR) on July 16, 1994.

Peace Corps Volunteer Amy Smith focused her work on the TMNR from 1994 to 1996. Support was obtained from the Nature Conservancy to allow David Tzul to be hired as a warden. Hike and Bike for the Rainforest, sponsored by Coca Cola, was a fund-raising program in October of 1994 that raised money for TMNR. A motorcycle was also donated to TMNR by International Conservation Relief, the organization behind “Hike and Bike.” The initial biological survey of TMNR that was completed in December of 1994 recorded 129 species of migratory and resident birds, ten mammals, 160 species of plants, 21 species of damselflies and dragonflies, 96 species of butterflies and moths, three species of fish, one amphibian species, and 12 species of reptiles.

The Friends of Tapir Mountain Programme was organized at a TMNR Community Workshop and Interpretative Field Trip on September 3, 1995, at Pook’s Hill Lodge near the northeast corner of the Reserve. Village leaders, school teachers, students, and community health workers from nearby villages participated.

Getting There

A road south from Teakettle Village on the Western Highway provides access to the park warden's quarters. Permission to enter the reserve for scientific or educational purposes must be obtained from the management.