Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"My favorite 2013 experience" Contributing to the protection of the last of their kind, the Chiquibul Scarlet Macaws

It is sometimes easy to focus on the negative, especially when the weather is this bad, for this long? Muddy holidays with grey skies in Belize aside... 2013 has been an incredible year! One blog could not summarize it. So I shall focus on individual activities. The world seems full of bad news and negativity and I believe this rarely leads to positive outcomes. I prefer positive news, in order to hopefully inspire more of you to join in to help one of the many individuals and organizations protecting nature, and wildlife, and ultimately your own existence. 

When thinking about the best experience in 2013, I have no doubt but to think of the support we were able to provide to the Forest Department as well as Friends for Conservation and Development, Scarlet Six and the Scarlet Macaws of Chiquibul. First I would like to thank my friend Charles Britt for sensitizing me to the urgent needs and incredible threats to these beautiful birds, years ago. Of course I have read, and liked, „The last flight of the Scarlet Macaw“. And which wildlife vet does not dream of helping to save a species!

But of course the vet only contributes a tiny portion, and the lion share of the effort is carried by the courageous rangers! And the people behind the scenes who secure the financing.

The rough estimates say we might have between 100-200 birds left in Belize. Studies on small parts of the population had shown poaching rates of up to 80 % of nests. To counteract extreme poaching pressures, in 2012 first efforts at protecting individual nests were made by FCD and Scarlet Six. Thanks to that, poaching pressure decreased in the study area. After several years of observation and pondering how I and the Belize Wildlife & Referral Clinic can assist the plight of this disappearing bird, we are now honored to be contributing a tiny part to the efforts. BWRC and our veterinarians provided the first in field health checks in 2013 and I participated in the Scarlet Macaw Working group since 2012. I have to also thank Dr. Joyner for joining and teaching us, sharing her records and experiences for our first trip into this incredibly beautiful wilderness to establish the methodology to conduct chick checks. Very nice for me was that the first trip group also included my brother.

To those who don’t know: I and most of my family have a huge fascination for the jungle. I believe it stems from some influential childhood years spent in South America but that is beside the point. The Chiquibul
Forest is something I deeply cared about since I came to Belize even though I get to go much too rarely. So finally going to the much debated Chalillo reservoir, up the Raspaculo branch and seeing this gem teaming with wild life with a family member, was special treat to me personally. The ticks especially on the first trip were my least favorite part... I have to thank Roni Martinez for his awesome company on all of our trips! And foremost I would like to send thanks to the many rangers for FCD and Scarlet Six and their volunteers who dedicate themselves to this incredible birds’ fight for survival. Thanks to everybody's awesome dedication, cooperation and coordination of efforts we were able to check a first 7 birds, who were almost all in good health. 

One of the most touching moments is shown in this picture taken by Roni. Thanks to LoraKims suggestion all rangers got to assist with health checks and got to listen to the incredibly fast heart beats of their precious charges. And I think the visual expression on his face, captured so well in the picture is better then all my words. It reminded me that my importance may lay more in what I leave behind and how much I can teach others to care, about nature, wildlife, and ultimately themselves. I truly cherish those moments when I am given the opportunity to share my passion and see it totally take over :)

One of the most upsetting moments was when we learned that those very same chicks we touched on our first trip, were poached only 3 days later. This most likely meant their death. And clearly demonstrated the need for more: more „boots“ on the ground, protection efforts, financial support to pay for it, alternative ways to prevent poaching of individual nests especially during the end of breeding season.

I would like to thank the many individuals who have made it possible for me to be able to contribute a small part.

Please check out the website of  FCD to learn more about their awesome work for the Maya Mountain Massive Protected Area (nearly 8 % of Belize's landmass and our countries main water shed!) www.fcdbelize.com. Consider a donation to the cause via FCD or Scarlet 6 and/or if you would like to volunteer or intern with wildlife medicine and conservation email Justin from the Wildlife Institute for more info www.wildlife-institute.com

We are very exited and look forward to continue and intensify our collaboration for the 2014 field season.

Will you join us?

Dr. Isabelle

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