Today we had our first buffet style breakfast which was quite delicious. We had cinnamon rolls, with what I believe was a cinnamon flavored oatmeal and sausage. After a short lecture on Wildlife Research Methods we headed to the zoo. There we started off with a behind the scenes tour of the jaguar rehabilitation program. All of the jaguars are considered “problems” because they were causing disturbances to communities by eating cattle or dogs for example. The program wasn’t really a rehabilitation program, the now captured problem jaguars are going to live their days out in captivity opposed to getting killed by farmers/community members. After meeting 11 of these jaguars we went to the clinic and started a lecture on jaguar anatomy.
After we divided into teams to recreate a jaguar skeleton; in a friendly competition for an unknown prize. Both teams tied so as a tiebreaker we had to each stick our hand in a bag to identify a mystery bone. I have never taken anatomy so I had some trouble putting the skeleton together. After the bone lab we braked for lunch before starting the fecal lab. We did the lab one group at a time and while the other group went first we got to go on a small private tour of the zoo with Roberto. We saw toucans, jaguars, ocelots, owls, howler monkeys, spider monkeys and tapirs.
After we did fecal flotations on various animals in the zoo to look for parasitic eggs. Fortunately, we didn’t see any eggs. By the time we were done the lab and the other group finished touring the zoo I think we were all exhausted. Luckily, our last lecture and activity of the day was a lecture by Jamal. We learned about a zoo’s role in conservation. This was all about how zoo’s (like the Belize Zoo) should be more about having animals on display. Zoo’s should work to promote conservation, education, research and rehabilitation for animals. In the Belize Zoo we often hear Jamal reference the animals as ambassadors for their species. Their zoo does a lot to promote education in the community so that animals like the barn owl, Harpy eagle and jaguar aren’t killed and people understand their value/purpose in the community. The barn owl for example eats more rodents by pound than any other mammal, but are persecuted because people think they are omens of death.
After his lecture and a very long day of being in the field/classroom we headed back to the TEC for dinner. There we were served some type of marinated pork with coleslaw and tortilla. After dinner some of us hung around the dining area for wifi. Than shortly after I left just to stop at the bathroom on my way back I see Kayla, Deanna, Dr. K and other girl walking with JC (Juan Carolos). They informed me on their impromptu trip to see a dead Tapir and invited me along. Just when I thought my night was over I was back out on the road. The tapir was hit by a car a few days ago and its body was moved to the side. When we arrived, under the cover of darkness we saw the ripe body. And boy oh boy was he huge! By the time we got to him there was only a small hole in his body make by vultures. His eye was missing and his mouth was open. We examined the body which was clearly bloated. This was my first time seeing a dead animal body and it was pretty cool. Before retuning back we briefly looked at the other bones on the ground. After we returned we all went to bed.