Because my family is from Trinidad and Tobago, I have frequented that island often. So, when I first arrived at the airport in Belize City, I immediately compared and contrast this country to that of Trinidad and Tobago. Although Belize resembles the tropical islands, I noticed that Belize also has vegetation that resembles those that grow in a more temperate environment. During one of our first days here, Stefan, who was really knowledgeable about plants, trees, and birds, guided our group on a nature tour of the Tropical Education Center (TEC) premises, the grounds on which we are staying at. It became apparent and clear through the nature tour that Belize truly had a blended climate in which both temperature and tropical plants and trees could grow.
I’ve also been learning a lot about wildlife rehabilitation efforts and the importance of rehab and release. Our instructors Jane and Dr. Sarah taught us that knowing or understanding the health of one individual of a species in a population is typically indicative of the overall health of that population of species and the state of the environment that they are in. They also remind us that wildlife rehabilitation is necessary because a lot of the damage or injury caused to animals are because of man-made infrastructure. Implementing rehab and release programs are an opportunity to counteract the negative impacts and constraints on wildlife health imposed on animals by humans.
We also visited the Belize Zoo for the first time this week and we focused on the Tapirs and the Jaguars. Known in Belize as the “mountain cow”, Tapirs are forest dwellers that it is the national animal of Belize. Tapirs are also really similar to horses. We learned normal behaviors of Tapirs and how to do a full-body physical assessment of these mammals. For the rest of our time at the Belize Zoo, we met several Jaguars. These Jaguars are a part of the “Problem Jaguar” Program. Due to man-made infrastructure and deforestation, the typical prey of the Jaguar (e.g., deer, peccary) can become scarce. As a result, Jaguars will hunt for “easier” prey such as cattle and dogs, which can be disruptive for the Belizean people who raise cattle and/or who have pets. The Belize Zoo gives these animals another chance to be in a safer environment where both the Jaguars and the Belizean people can co-exist.
As an assignment, we have to choose an animal within the Belize Zoo to create an enrichment for. An enrichment is anything that stimulates an animal, combats boredom and falls in line with their normal behavior. I thought the King Vulture was interesting and had a lot of personality, so I will be creating either a sensory or tactile enrichment for these vultures. We also have a chance to physically carry out our brainstorming and see if it works as an enrichment for the animals we chose. Stay tuned!