One of the stories you hear about often in Belize is the steady advance of civilization into the jungles and forested lands and even the low scrub savannas, and the devastating impact this has on wildlife.
The assault on wildlife habitat comes from many sides: the voracious real estate appetite of big agriculture, the clumsy slash-and-burn of illegal farmers and lumber thieves from Guatemala, the steadily outward encroachment of suburban development or the devastating indifference of poachers.
Recently photographer Tony Rath reported on the environmental assault from another perspective, the large scale illegal gold and mineral mining by Guatemalans in the Ceibo Chico area of Chiquibul National Park in Western Belize. In a stunning report titled In Belize, All That Is Gold Does Not Glitter, the photographer documents the “looting, desecration and annexation” of this national treasure.
Rath’s stunning photos and accompanying essay show the impact on the reserve: Guatemalans set fire to the jungle, they excavate the hillsides, they leave a trail of trash and campsites. Inevitably the quality of the watershed and the wildlife are affected.
It can be dispiriting as we constantly witness the impotency of Belize against the assaults and bullying insults of Guatemalan encroachment. Even the steady thrum and hum of legal agriculture and large scale residential/resort development can make you feel like the end game is going to leave ugly scars across this nation.
It is not just environmental aesthetics. There is a dangerous balancing act going on between mankind’s encroachment and the sustainability of the wildlife habitat.
The birds and animals of Belize are the collateral damage in this tug of war.
As in every war, there are selfless workers on the front lines trying to minimize the damage, salvage the maimed and displaced animals and rehabilitate the wounded.
Among those angels of mercy is Belize Wildlife & Referral Clinic (BWRC).
Dr. Isabelle Paquet-Durand co-founded the clinic in 2011 after a somewhat itinerant career rescuing and patching the wounded and damaged in various wildlife field clinics and rehab centers from Costa Rica to Belize.
Here is a terrific video that shows some of the the work that BWRC accomplishes. Now you may get the impression that they only deal in adorable creatures but you have to keep in mind that Belize is gifted with an enormous variety of adorable creatures. We’re just lucky that way. Take a look:
Here is Belize Wildlife & Referral Clinic’s Facebook page. You know you want to “like” it, if only for the pictures of adorable animals.
The Cayo clinic has grown to include a staff of six, plus numerous volunteers, who treat as many as 200 Belizean animals a year, from monkeys to Macaws. I should say it has outgrown.
The rented building that houses the BWRC operation is no longer sufficient. BWRC has its eye on a 30 acre tract of land that fronts the main road and is bordered by a stream. It is actually part of the life-sustaining wildlife corridor and would be guaranteed to remain a vital link in the migration route should BWRC raise the funds it needs to buy the land.
And here is an image of the current staff that keeps BWRC running:
Here is what Dr. Isabelle says about her staff:
It takes a team to get our job done and these are most of the people that make this happen at BWRC in 2016 (missing only co-director Justin Ford and volunteers). I feel very fortunate to have this awesome team working passionately to support wildlife conservation and animal welfare through education, emergency response, rescue, medical care, rehabilitation, field support and so much more. Taking many dirty jobs, sad cases and challenges and constraints “galore” in stride, your compassion for people and animals continues to make a difference on a daily basis!
Thanks Team – Dr. I
Before moving to Belize, I had the pleasure of volunteering at an aquatic bird rescue center in northern California. Their bread and butter — the glamour shots — were bird rescues after oil spills. That is when TV rushed in to film the sludge being wiped from the feathers of fading pelicans.
All very heroic and tragically all too often.
But day to day, the business was caring for, repairing, resuscitating, rescuing and, in some cases, releasing birds of many a feather that had been found floundering on the California shores. It also included cleaning cages, purifying feeding systems, scrubbing floors, changing water in survival tanks and pools, injecting medicines, changing bandages and, in my case, reorganizing years’ accumulation of supplies and equipment in an outdoor shed area.
Rescuing animals is extremely gratifying.
But it is also extremely hard work.
That’s why when I heard that BWRC is planning to grow, I wanted to do something to help.
I’m hitting you up for some money. Not a lot. Although …. have you looked at that video yet? Did you see the looks on the faces of those animals in the collage at the top of this blog? I’m sure you’ll want to kick in a little more after you do. The animals are just that cute.
BWRC has a gofundme site and it is trying to raise $160,000 for the purchase of the 30 acres that I mentioned earlier. Thirty acres can provide a lot of space for assimilation of treated animals back into their natural world. And it could provide a lot of space for the necessary work that BWRC does, work that will get only more necessary as civilization advances on the wildlife habitat.
As of this writing, BWRC has only $410 toward its goal. Yikes. Well, the campaign is in its infancy. I’m betting that by the end of today, good animal-land-Belize-loving readers we can kick that tally up to more than $5,000.
What do you think?
If you aren’t sure, I have included in this blog pictures of adorable but damaged animals that BWRC has been nursing back to health. When I think of BWRC, I see nurturing hands gently wrapped around monkeys, leopards, parrots, porcupines — OK, maybe not porcupines — salvaging the natural legacy of Belize one animal at a time.
Don’t you want to be a part of that?
Now, go back and enjoy the adorable animals.