The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is a nature reserve in south-central Belize established to protect the forests, fauna and watersheds of an approximately 400 square kilometre area of the eastern slopes of the Maya Mountains. The reserve was founded in 1990 as the first wilderness sanctuary for the jaguar and is regarded by one author as the premier site for jaguar preservation in the world. The site consists of two distinct adjacent watersheds and is accessible via a low intensity trail system to accommodate visitors and research environmental scientists. The Maya Mountains and foothills are among the oldest surface rock formations of Central America; these Paleozoic sediments were uplifted about 200 million years ago in the later part (Pennsylvanian) of the Carboniferous period and the early Permian period. The principal uplifted rock formations in the Sanctuary are quartzite and sandstone.
The name Cockscomb derives from the appearance of the Cockscomb Mountains ridge that resembles a rooster's comb, which ridge is situated at the northern fringe of the reserve and which is easily visible from the coastal plain of the Caribbean Sea. Habitation by the ancient Mayas occurred in the Cockscomb Basin as early as 10,000 BC, but the first modern recorded history exploration of the basin did not occur until 1988. Principal plant communities are pine forest, elfin scrub, tropical moist broad leaf forest, shelter valley forest and floodplain thicket