Happy New Year! For NYE, a friend from the trip, Blessing, and I visited San Ignacio. Jane helped us figure out how to navigate the Belize bus system. Because there’s only one highway, to get to San Ignacio, the Western Highway, it was pretty easy to get to San Ignacio from Central Belize. We got on a bus that said “Benque” and it took us about 1 hour and 30 min to 2 hours to reach our destination. We stayed the night with friends from the Large Animal Vet course at a nearby hotel. After getting settled for a bit, we rang in the new year at Club Next at the Princess Casino dancing to reggaetón and soca music.
We stayed the night in San Ignacio and decided to visit the Xunantunich Mayan Ruins the next day (January 1st) since it was our day off. After eating a traditional Belizean Breakfast (fry jacks, eggs, fried beans, cheese, and either ham, bacon or sausage), we took a taxi to San Pedro Succotz, a nearby town close to Xunantunich. The ruins were breathtaking, and the highest ruin provided the perfect scenery of the other clouds, trees and the other ruins surrounding it
After the Mayan ruins, we visited the Green Iguana, which was a conservation project, particularly for the green female Iguanas. Female Iguanas, which are typically green so that they can camouflage in the wild, are hunted in Belize for food. In addition to being hunted and deforestation, the iguanas are decreasing in numbers. What the keepers at the Green Iguana do is incubate the eggs that will grow to be green female iguanas to increase the survival rate of those eggs so that more females Iguanas can enter the environment. However, if an iguana is not likely to survive in the wild, the keepers will keep that iguana in the reserve and use them as educational tools.
From what I’ve seen, several organizations in Belize do an amazing job of utilizing native wildlife that may not have been able to survive in the wild as education tools or “ambassadors for their species” to connect the Belizean public with the native Belizean animals. The goal of these conversation reserves is to show people the wildlife that live in Belize, detail why this particular species is in danger of becoming extinct, why it matters to protect them and their overall contributions to the ecosystem, and the specific story as to why the wildlife animal right in front of them is there. It really instills respect and an appreciation for these animals and it’s especially impressionable on young children. I’ve really learned the importance of wildlife rehabilitation and release on maintaining the balance in the ecosystem, a balance oftentimes disrupted by man-made infrastructure.
Getting back to the Tropical Education Center was tough because we waited for a bus to Belize City for about 45 minutes. We decided to take a taxi back since we needed to be back at TEC by 6 PM to check-in. While negotiating a price for a taxi to take us from San Ignacio back to TEC, a woman, Elsa, came up to us and asked us what our situation was. After we told her, she called her nephew, Abraham, a taxi driver, who graciously gave us a ride back to TEC. It was New Year’s Day and I’m sure they both wanted to go home and spend time with their families, but they drove Blessing and me about an hour and a half away just so we could get to where we needed to be. We met such kind people in Belize.