Wow!!! It’s already a week to the end and I can’t believe it. It has gone by so fast and instead of pure excitement to be going home, it is starting to be bittersweet as I begin to plan to leave this beautiful country with all the amazing people that I have met and will never forget.
On Monday, our primary focus was the community baboon sanctuary (which get this- doesn’t have baboons at all, just black howler monkeys). This sanctuary was very interesting because it was made up of 7 small villages and depended on the voluntary pledges of the residents to preserve the monkey’s habitats. Within the land of these small 7 villages, had about 4,000 black howler monkeys who coexist and are living freely. The community sanctuary has been focusing on preserving this species of monkey and educating the people on why it is important to do so. After getting to see the black howler monkeys, and hike following them (watch out for ticks- although they are without disease), it was amazing to me that the citizens decided to organize this and continue to protect an animal, which can just show you the impact people have when they work together with a common goal. We ended early this day, which gave enough time for a well-needed nap and enough time to finish our presentation for Friday.
Tuesday was our San Ignacio Day 🙁 which was a reminder of how much I missed the first group and the first two weeks of studying abroad. We started off the day with Green Iguana Conservation Project, which many of us had our doubts about, but the iguanas seemed to be happy within the housing. Some of them were so friendly that you could pick them up and hold them, however, the most friendly iguana was also the biggest (which I held) and was about 5 feet long. Afterward, we continued to Xunantunich, which Deanna, Angela and I have been to before, but it wasn’t any less beautiful than it was prior, we even explained some cool facts we had learned before! For lunch, we went to a place called Hodes, which was right next to the Midas Resort and I had some quesadillas for the very last time. 🙁 To end the day, we got to meet another amazing, kick-ass female role model at The Raptor Center who had a small baby in her arms but was still treating and caring for 11 raptors. I never knew I could possibly like birds so much until I was taught all the work she was doing, all the tough decisions her and her coworkers have had to make and all her successes. In the past year, she had 10 birds, 5 of which could be released, 3 of which could not and 2 who sadly passed away from dehydration when they came in.
Wednesday was our early day, where we woke up at 4:40 am to go mist netting and see if we can catch some birds. Even though we had to hike a mile in our rain boots because the savannah was starting to transition into a lake with the rainy season approaching, we got to catch 8 small birds that were absolutely beautiful. After Rey was done processing, we were allowed to let the small birds go and get to watch them fly far far away! At the end of this, we were split into two groups: one to go find the elusive spider monkeys, and another to go perform zoo veterinary procedures. I, of course, chose the second option along with 7 other girls, and when we got to the zoo, we had to wait around for a while. We walked around and we were guessing some of the animal’s conditions, and then afterward, we came back to the clinic and performed a blood smear and fecal flotation on the vulture samples Dr. K acquired the previous day. Avian blood is so different from mammalian blood!
Our last zoo day began with ripe-smelling necropsy. My small group of three got to perform a necropsy on a small raptor, while other groups had toucans, parrots and one had a snake. It was really interesting to look at the size of all the organs and the organs that are different from the ones in mammals. We determined the bird died from some type of trauma, due to its fractured wing and hurt skull, which Dr.K helped us determine, and we saw a pellet forming in the stomach. How cool is that!!! After lunch at the zoo, and some shopping for gifts back home, we got to begin our enrichment activity with the toucans which was a success!! We made a cardboard box with different compartments with papaya and watermelon in them and covered it with hay. This one toucan loved it so much, we had to remove it early so he didn’t spoil his dinner!!
And just like that, it is the last day. We went to the zoo, where we presented all of our projects and had a session with Cynthia about possible improvements to the program. Overall, the wildlife program has more of a medicine and research base than an ecology base, and I hope people realize that when they sign up for this course! After, as an entire group, we had lunch together at Cheers and then returned for the jaguar encounters. The jaguar encounter was SO COOL! We got Junior, the famous Jaguar, to lick our foreheads and we fed him a snack while we were in the safety of a cage. It was only a few minutes, but it was a really cool experience. We then left the Belize Zoo for good 🙁 and returned to the TEC for a last dip in the pool and for some packing. Because I brought so many books to donate the first time, my bag was significantly lighter than it was before, even with all the souvenirs I added! We had our final dinner Belizean style, with stewed chicken and rice and beans. And then after, headed to Amigos for one last night of karaoke! We even got Dr. K and her husband Vincent to sing Bohemian Rhapsody! It was loads of fun and then we got to sleep for one last time in this beautiful country.
Today was the day we left!!! We had fry jacks as a final goodbye of a breakfast (which I am going to miss so much, but my wonderful boyfriend is going to make for me when I get home 🙂 ). Then we had to say goodbye to Dr.K and the three people staying for the other course at 8:30 am. Dr. K has been one of the best veterinarians and professors I have ever had, and she was just an amazing and inspirational woman overall. While some people were crying as they left, I was not for some reason, despite being sad about leaving my home for a month.
Belize was amazing and even though it came with all its challenges of heat, bugs, sunburns and homesickness, I highly recommend this place if you want to be out of your comfort zone for a short time. I loved the first two weeks, and the last two weren’t my favorite but that’s okay! If you’re going to do a month, do the wildlife course first, and you’ll appreciate everything more. I am so amazed at all the wonderful people I have met, whom I hope I will never forget. Thank you SEBS Office of Global Engagement and my parents and my prior savings (lol) for giving me this opportunity. I am so thankful, and I am so happy I got to do this program. I will always keep it with me.