Conservation in Belize – Part One
This June a small group of teenagers from Nairn will travel around Belize in order to volunteer for conservation projects in the country. The group will also use the time in Belize to complete their Gold Duke of Edinburgh expedition and a John Muir Explorer Award. This blog series, will be written by the group and sent to RSGS HQ whilst the team are still in Belize. Read on to learn more about their adventure and to see how they are making a difference in Belize.
Belize was chosen for our Duke of Edinburgh /John Muir Trust expedition as it has close links with UK and researchers have been visiting Belize from the UK, and Scotland in particular, for many years. The Research Station in the middle of the rainforest where we are based at the moment has had links with The University of Edinburgh and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh for over 50 years, the station was delighted to welcome us here to help with various conservation activities – clearing trails, recording species, monitoring birds and wildlife, making trail signs, measuring trees and much more.
After a long, long journey to Belize we settled into the Tropical Education Centre beside the Belize Zoo for our first two night’s acclimatisation. Here we found out about the rules of ‘tropical’ living and the animals both big and small that we could encounter during the expedition. We had a visit to the zoo which only houses orphaned, injured animals. It was a compelling introduction to the creatures of Belize.
After two days adjusting to the 90% humidity, we travelled on a long, off -road trip into the research centre known as Las Cuevas in the Chiquibul Rainforest. The journey took about 6 hours in total with a stop in San Ignacio to pick up supplies for our DofE Gold expedition which comes at the end of the jungle phase. We are now based in the rainforest in a centre used primarily by research students from all over the world, studying a multitude of topics – bats, birds, forestry, insects, caves and more.
Whilst at the centre we will be taking part in various conservation activities which will contribute towards our John Muir Trust Award, as well as finding out about the rainforest and the species who inhabit the area. We have already seen endangered Scarlet Macaws and a Keel Billed Toucan – the National bird of Belize. We have been out on the trail with an FCD Ranger learning about all the plants/trees and their uses. Later we will be exploring the caves that give Las Cuevas its name.
The rest of our time out here will be divided between exploration with the Rangers and maintenance work around the trails and centre itself, before embarking on our 4 day Gold DofE expedition back to the villages through Mountain Pine Ridge.
The conservation work here is absolutely vital, the Chiquibul Rainforest is one of the last remaining untouched rainforests in Central America and is constantly threatened by poachers and Guatemalan incursions as it is close to the disputed border with Guatamala. As young people we feel preserving this Rainforest has an impact on everyone’s lives no matter where they live. We feel we all need to take a stand where conservation issues are concerned.