Tuesday, June 30, 2015

My Unbelizable Adventure: Part 1

Name: Hannah Tucky
Class: 2017, Junior
Hometown: Delaware, Ohio
Internship: Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center
Location: Mile 29 Western Hwy, Belize

      Hi there everyone! I am so excited to finally get to share my summer adventures with you although I am already back in the states! Unfortunately there were some wifi issues that came up as the rainy season started so I was unable to post during my actual internship. I was also waiting for the zoo to post a picture with one of the baby animals it received during my internship so I could include him in my posts!

Well, to start off, I spent a total of 6 weeks in the beautiful country of Belize in Central America! I spent the first two weeks traveling and studying with Dr. Lescinsky and a group of us from Otterbein who were part of the coral reef ecology class. On the last day, as everyone else headed home, I began my month long internship at the Belize Zoo. Having had an internship at the Columbus Zoo, I was very interested to see how the internships would differ and compare.

One of the many hand painted
signs throughout the zoo!
To explain my internship a little better I thought I would give a little background on the zoo as a whole. The zoo was first founded in 1983 when founder Sharon Matola was left with a collection of animals after helping film a documentary in the country. Within weeks the zoo began with a humble start. Now, over 40 species and over 120 individuals are housed within the zoo. Within the zoo itself, the atmosphere differs greatly from any U.S zoo I have been to. All the animals that the public sees are all native animals to the country of Belize. The paths are also placed through natural canopy and every sign is hand painted by the zoos maintenance staff.

Unlike other zoos, having only native animals to that region allows the Belize Zoo to play a crucial role in the direct conservation of nearby wildlife. For countless people, superstitions about wildlife have driven them to kill many animals for no reason. Ideas like barn owls living near your home means the death of a family member have pushed isolated populations of animals in Belize to the brink of extirpation.

Me and Indy, one of the tapirs!
During my first week here I once again became accustomed to the hard physical labor that is involved in any animal management job. Being a small zoo, the staff is very small, with only one or two keepers in one of the three sections per day. The majority of my first week I dealt with the zoo's mammal section. This section includes the Central American tapir, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, and the ever so rare white tailed deer. The majority of my time here was spent preparing diets for all of the animals as in one day 7 large buckets of fruit and vegetables had to be cut, as well at 18 plates of food prepared. It was a lot bigger task than I first assumed!

One of my first pictures with little Manny!
During the middle of the week we also gained a new addition to the zoo. An infant jaguarundi cub (who we ended up naming Manny) was found on the side of the road. At only around 3 weeks old the little kitten was extremely tiny. During the remainder of the week I helped one of the supervisors Gliselle act as a foster mother for the kitten, job that continued the rest of my time at the zoo. 

Overall, the first week at the zoo was a whirlwind of activity and excitement. I look forward to updating everyone on the rest of my time there!

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