Sunday, June 29, 2014

Viva Belize! Week One

Hello everyone! Firstly I wanted to start with where in the world I am and what I am doing while I'm here. I am staying in Belize, a tiny Central American country settled between Mexico and Guatemala and although English is their first language, everyone knows Spanish and most default to speaking Creole. I am living at the Tropical Education Center which is conveniently located across the road from the Belize Zoo. The only internet access is in the dining room, and isn't always reliable, (which is why I have to cram my first week into one post... Sorry bout that!)
This is the dorm I am living at, and although it has no AC, they have given me a nice big fan and a bike for the mile trip to and from the zoo everyday. 
This is the beautiful gravel road I bike down everyday. 
My first day started right away. I met the keepers and curator, Sharon, all of whom are incredibly accepting and very funny. I am finally able to tell when they are making fun of me now. They also showed me the resident 'non-display-animals' like Bella, the Blue and Yellow Macaw. She lives in the back because she is not native to Belize and they only showcase native wildlife. 
And Amber the dog. She lives in the back because well... She's a dog.
After that I met Tim, who was in charge of the JAGUARS that day. I couldn't believe it. Day one and I working with the most important animal to this country. Anyway we started by chopping chicken for the 13 "problem jaguars" the zoo has. They are housed in the back away from the public and were taken from situations where they were causing problems, usually hunting livestock, and would normally be killed without a home at the Belize Zoo. This is what food for 13 jags looks like. 
Yummy right? Next it was time to feed them. All of the cats are hand fed, through the fence of course. 

They are incredibly strong and more beautiful than I imagined. Most had scars where people had shot at them trying to protect their cattle. Many of the cats also knew "tricks" like "high five" and "roll over" for food. 
The rest of the day was spent cutting up more chicken for their second evening meal (jaguars eat a lot of meat, go figure) and cleaning their enclosures. We sprayed down their indoor sleeping areas and scrubbed their pools. 
It was a lot of work, but incredible, and I got to do it all again the next day!

The day after that, so Wednesday now I got to work with a different keeper who was in charge of all the birds the zoo has. Many of then were either donated or seized from the pet trade.  
We started the day again by preparing their food, consisting mostly of local fruits, watermelon, papaya, banana, and mango... Apparently it's mango season here! The parrots and toucans also receive dog food, peanuts and occasionally hard boiled eggs. Here is all of their plates ready to go out for the morning. 
There are many beautiful and exotic birds at the zoo, but the super stars are their scarlet macaws. 
This pretty lady was very interested in eating my phone. 
I personally was amazed at how colorful the toucans were up close. 
And how quickly a playful parrot can go from sweet... To tearing your skin off...
Next we moved onto the birds of prey. The zoo is home to several BOP including several species of owl, hawk, vulture and of course the Harpy Eagle. 
Most of the smaller birds enjoy meals of baby chicks... Like this cute little guy :(
The Harpys eat chicken and are also hand fed. They have two, a male and a female. Both are enormous but the female is a little larger and is named The Queen, the male is called Panama. 
That's Panama... He looks huge right!? 

The next day I started out with birds in the morning but ended up helping another keeper with mammals at the end of the day. My dreams came true when I finally was able to feed a kinkajou. His name is Fuzzy and used to be someone's pet. 
I was a little excited...
I also got the experience of feeding their blind tapir named Bullethead. 
All in all it was an incredible, exhausting, hot, humid, itchy week and I can't wait to see what else this place has in store for me!