COMMUNITY CONSERVATION FOUNDER ROB HORWICH
Dr. Rob Horwich founded Community Conservation in his living room in Gays Mills, Wisconsin, in 1989. Rob was first inspired to work alongside local people to protect their forests in Belize. He initially traveled to Belize to study black howler monkeys, locally known as baboons, and quickly realized that without joining forces with local people to protect the howlers’ forest home, there might not be any more howlers to study in the future. Working with local human community members provided the opportunity to protect habitat via what is now known as the Community Baboon Sanctuary, a model for local community management of natural resources and ecotourism that is managed by and directly benefits the local people.
Rob continued his work focusing on people-centered conservation in 14 additional countries. His passion for protecting endangered habitat was limitless. His friends reflect on his endless kindness and generosity, and twinkling sense of humor. From his base in his rural home in Gays Mills, he inspired a generation of conservation professionals across the globe. We are grateful for his mentorship and legacy as we continue to work with local people to protect habitats around the world.
Please take a look at this wonderful video describing Rob’s pivotal work in Belize with the Community Baboon Sanctuary.
The First Community Conservation Project
Community Baboon Sanctuary
LOCATION: BERMUDIAN LANDING, BELIZE
TARGET SPECIES: BLACK HOWLER MONKEY
STATUS: ESTABLISHED (SUSTAINED BY LOCAL LEADERS)
The Community Baboon Sanctuary was the first conservation project initiated by Dr. Rob Horwich and Dr. Jon Lyon, the two scientists who later joined forces to form Community Conservation. Created in 1985, the Community Baboon Santuary (CBS) was a truly innovative solution to the conservation of private lands. It has become a conservation model that has spawned a new wave of community conservation projects in Belize and internationally.
CBS, co-founded by Dr. Horwich and local landowner and community leader Fallet Young, links habitat protection for the endangered black howler monkey (locally referred to as baboon) with the human community’s need for land management and livelihood activities. The main goal of this project was local protection of the black howler monkey (Alouetta pigra) and its habitat through encouraging a stewardship ethic among landowners. It involved the participation of seven villages and over 120 individual landowners.
In addition to the local protection of the howler monkeys, the Community Baboon Sanctuary has spread interest in howler protection country-wide. The CBS has donated howler monkeys for a reintroduction program in the Cockscomb Basin of Belize, and also contributed howler monkeys for another smaller release in the Cayo District of Belize. The existence and maintenance of the sanctuary has also encouraged a great deal of research focused on the howler monkeys, the forest, the Central American river turtle, and the incredibly diverse bird community of the area.
In 2018, the museum located at the sanctuary was renamed “The Robert Horwich and Fallet A. Young Natural History Museum” in honor of its co-founders. The sanctuary is successfully managed by the CBS Women’s Conservation Group, a committee of women leaders from the seven communities that make up the sanctuary.