The conservation community is in mourning after a Belizean environmentalist was killed at his home while celebrating New Year’s Eve.
Jon Ramnarace, who worked in protected area patrol and marine conservation technology, was shot and killed along with his brother David in Belize City on December 31. Their spouses were also shot but remain in critical condition, according to local reports. Jon Ramnarace was 29 years old.
“Jon was very personable and immediately became an asset to our team,” the Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association (TASA), where he worked, said in a statement. “He was funny, witty and solution-oriented…His impact on the organization and the TASA team was significant. It must be difficult to process the untimely death of such a vibrant and dedicated conservation warrior.”
The main suspect, Police Corporal Elmer Nah, 39, was arrested in the first week of January and charged with two counts of murder and attempted murder, means of deadly harm and dangerous harm.
Nah was previously under internal police investigation for his alleged involvement in an illegal drug plane that was seized by authorities in November 2021. Although Nah has been out of commission since that case, his final acquittal sparked a public outcry over law enforcement investigations. , one reason officials are considering using a special prosecutor for the upcoming murder trial.
The trial date is pending. The reason for the killing has not yet been made public.
Ramnarace (left) at the Tikal Summit hosted by Global Conservation in 2022. (Photo courtesy of Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association)
Ramnarace worked as the Director of Monitoring and Protection for the Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association (TASA), an organization that helps manage Belize’s largest coral reef marine protected area , reefs, mangroves and many other types of marine and terrestrial ecosystems.
He started with TASA in October 2022 to help implement technology that would better police the area, such as Global Park Defense, GPS vessel tracking and SMART Patrols, among other things.
“It is an excellent model for other future leaders in marine protection against illegal and unsustainable fishing,” said Jeff Morgan, founder of Global Conservation, TASA partner. “Unfortunately, greed and criminals took his life just as he was serving a prominent role at TASA. We are all saddened by his sudden loss, and by all of Belize.”
Prior to working for TASA, Ramnarace spent six years at WCS Belize helping to roll out a national training program for protected area managers and rangers interested in using patrol software and aerial and underwater drones for surveillance. He also helped develop the Fish Right Eat Right and OurFish mobile apps that promote best practices in the commercial buying and selling of fish, according to WCS.
He helped develop similar technologies for conservation projects in Honduras, the Bahamas and Jamaica.
“The WCS family in Belize and beyond will not forget Jon’s dedication to protecting nature through innovation, his warm personality and his love for his family,” said WCS Belize Country Director Nicole Auil Gomez , in a statement. “As with many others, we are better for having known him.”
Banner image: Turneffe Atoll in Belize. Photo courtesy of Global Conservation.
Check out related coverage of fishing in Belize:
Sharing a marine reserve with fishermen: Q&A with Adriel Castañeda of Belize Fisheries
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