Thursday, October 3, 2013

2012 – “Personal review of the first year of BWRC” – Of supporters, interns and critters

Please accept my apologies for the extreme delay of this blog...Note that this was written around January 2013 and the next “update” shall follow sooner. Actually one is already “in the pipeline”. But first things first.

How to even begin summarizing so many events in one year? I will have to thank many individuals or organizations again. Please do not get offended if you are not mentioned!
As said several times throughout the year: The single most amazing part of the experience (of “following a dream and establishing a wildlife teaching clinic”) has been the incredible amount of help and outpouring of support received from countless individuals.

So Thank You for your interest and support! We could not do it without your help!

So here my personal account of this amazing year, when the world did not end... :)
2012 started with a bang and a January trip to the most impressive North American Veterinary Conference, NAVC in Orlando, FL to receive the Inspiration in Action Award and get a very brief glance at the largest veterinary conference world wide. I dreamed about amazing educational opportunities to hopefully attend in the future. Thanks to Heska, I was able to attend one day and walk around in the exhibitions and “window shop” for the equipments to purchase for the start-up of the Belize Wildlife & Referral Clinic - BWRC.
After returning to Belize, reality sunk in a bit more, and the responsibility of spending 25,000 US dollars in the most efficient and sustainable way to build a wildlife clinic for Belize made the rosy clouds of the „first award won“ fade a bit, and the pressures of writing further grants increased. But to start at the beginning: The continued support of individuals, organization and equipment manufacturers was amazing. Of course prior to receiving the grant I had spent between 2-4 months on researching possible and needed equipments. So then, it took little more then 2 weeks after receiving the actual moneys, to have completed all orders (and spent the $25,000 Award)!
Equipment landed in Belize in March, and elections and GST created a little hold up... that would also end us with an additional cost of $US 3,000 for GST. In March I was also invited to visit New Mexico State University for one week. Thanks to my friend Kristi I was accepted for a small award that paid to bring me to NMSU for a few guest lectures. After an amazing week of meeting department heads and deans and students and thanks in big parts to Gary Low of Aggies go Global, I had met 3 driven young women who would turn out to become BWRC’s first undergraduate interns for 3 months in the summer, and be the most amazing help one could ask for.

Our first rotation interns came from Tufts for their last clinical rotation in early April, and in brief, we had a blast. The clinic to become was nothing but an empty building, with raw concrete floor. So we spent almost all of our time in the field. Later Drs. Sarah Wills and Stacy Green both jumped on the opportunity to return for the summer, immediately after their graduation, to help with students and animals. And then Dr. Sarah was able to fill the first professional intern position at BWRC until early December! In April the Belize Wildlife Conservation Network - BWCN teamed up with the Mesoamerican Society for Biology and Conservation - MSBC for a symposium and held a first annual BWCN membership meeting. The first elected Board of Directors was established with one of the main goals being the development of the Wildlife Advice Hotline, which would eventually be completed by the Emergency Response Team under the guidance of the medical professionals of BWRC. Little did we think, that we would receive emergency calls at the clinic before our opening, and on our opening day, and a total of 60 wildlife patients before the end of the year.

With the clinic building prepared, donations received from countless individuals and organizations, Heska equipment finally received, unpacked and assembled and the arrival of our NMSU group in early May 2012, the clinic started seeing its first patients, while developing our records and protocols. Chelsea Canon, Iris de la O and Katey Wahlen jumped straight in, when we were called to a road side emergency of a horse hit by a Hummer. (Needless to say it was Sunday and we were on the way to the river for a swim...). Followed by a snake bitten dog and numerous wildlife patients, from monkeys to crocs, their adventures alone could fill a small book (and a short video was made). Shortly after the NMSU interns arrival, BWCN held the first ever fundraiser for the clinic, a „Wild Night Out“ in Belmopan, and raised Bz 10,000 for BWRC! This helped repay the debt for our required GST payment and carried us into 2013 with some $ in the bank! Thanks to Nikki Buxton for doing it all! And of course those, who came and joined us, or donated silent auction items! After close to 2 decades of self-financed work, not wanting to ask for help from others, it was truly mindboggling to me how much help BWRC received! Special thanks also to Gillian Kirkwood and Belize City Humane Society who passed on many no longer needed pieces of stainless steel and other furniture from their closing shelter, to turn an empty building into a beginning clinic.

The summer came and so did the ISIS students, in four groups from June to August. Thanks to my clinic crew, I survived an intensive summer. Thanks to ISIS for providing significant income for BWRC through renting the class room (the main clinic room) as well as making a donation per student to the clinic, which enabled us to acquire further office equipment, furniture and our by then much needed washing machine...

Fall finally brought our official inauguration ceremony with Minister Alamilla cutting the ribbon on the 19th of October, followed by one of our most popular patients of the year arriving shortly after the ceremony...

This brings me to some of the most important highlights: Our Patients!
Before our inauguration BWRC had already seen about 60 domestic and 60 wildlife patients and all were special. But some were extra special, like Box, now known as Lucky Boy the black jaguar at the Zoo, or the Jabiru who decided to stick around at the municipal airport and use the runway as his walkway! Felix the wild kitten was probably my personal favorite (I hope to acquire grants and funding to establish small feline rehab one day) even though he caused me to loose some sleep before he took to his diet properly.

Loosing sleep is a good summary for living the dream in fact :).

BWRC saw a large number of primates this year, mainly thanks to the efforts of the Belize Forest Departments Rasheda Garcia, Jazmin Ramos and Daniel, and of course Wildtracks rehabilitation program. We have seen some amazing recoveries in wild and domestic animals. But, as typical in wildlife rescue and in medicine, we have seen a fair share of tragedy. Like the unnamed sub adult spider monkey, who died in respiratory failure partially due to intoxication caused by a lay person’s flea treatment of this already sick and debilitated animal. Or the black hawk with irreparable fracture and extreme stress levels, and the Barn owl with open fracture that seemed to recover well, but its bone did not. We were very sad to loose a beautiful Stygian owl to head and spinal injury. And the snake bitten dog dying after 18 h intensive care, or the cat that had impaled itself on a metal rod through the chest could be listed within our most tragic heart breaking cases for all involved.

Our most interesting cases might have been the spinal fractured iguanas or the boas. Much to my surprise we have seen 7 rescued reptiles in the first months. But our most talked about patient was baby spider monkey “Izzie”, coming in on inauguration day! She was diagnosed with five gun shot pellets and multiple shattered bones, about 1 h after the ribbon cutting ceremony, in an encouraging 3 h turn around, from phone report to me to arrival at clinic, and subsequent departure to the Wildtracks primate facility. Her story continues.

November held one more trip for me, to the Caribbean Veterinary Medical Conference in Trinidad and Tobago, filling my role as the Commonwealth Veterinary Association country councilor for Belize, networking and hoping to complete a CVA grant proposal jointly with the TT rescue center Wildlife Orphanage Rescue Center.

Thanks to the concerted efforts of countless people, foremost Molly Reeve, Izzie’s primary carer for the first 8 weeks, international attention was drawn to her case. One of her broken bones not mending, a specialized surgeon, Dr Adolf Maas, was found and kindly volunteered his services and sourced donated materials for Izzie’s arm repair, which happened in early December. Surgery was a full success (of course time will tell in the long run). We continue to monitor her case and so far 2 videos were made to document. December also was dedicated to further grant applications, one of which we missed, yet were still given support by the grantor (absolutely amazing thanks!) in the form of a $5000 donation! Grant applications have certainly one of the biggest challenges, but we understand that it takes writing many proposals. And every written application helps us refining details.
We continue to work on our first financial report but it appears that, despite 4 fruitless grant applications for further medical equipments and more, we have still doubled the Heska prize income in 2012 with donations, BWCN fundraiser and other activities of the non-profit organization (mainly domestic patients and class room rental). But soon more on that!

The year ended with another wildlife course of ISIS students and the refining of the vision for the next year, immediate goals and the bigger picture for the future of BWRC, to hopefully become a fully self-sustaining conservation-supporting medical teaching facility.

VIDEOS After the 2011 success in the Inspiration in Action contest, somewhat attributed to the video about Spartacus, the howler monkey baby who started it all (and is now our logo thanks to Colette Kase and Maya Papovic), and the amazing Solitary Eagle juvenile, in 2012 we have created another number of “home made wildlife videos” thanks to our wonderful friend documentarian, artist and jack of many trades, Daniel Velasquez.
Videos 2012:
Interns – Clinical rotation interns
Interns – Undergraduate NMSU interns
Inauguration and Izzies arrival
Izzies surgery

If you would like to learn more, find our website under

No comments: