This summer I was an intern at the Belize Zoo in the small Central American Nation of Belize. Belize is a very special country to me because it is where I grew up. Additionally, through my internship, I found exactly what I was looking for; an opportunity to help conserve rainforest ecology while working with the future generations of a nation that I am so proud to belong to.
While working at the Belize zoo, I spent my days educating school children about the importance of their rainforest environment and especially about the animals that also call the jungle home. I quickly became best friends with my fellow coworkers at the zoo as I learned the ropes at work. Best of all, I had a lot of fun doing my job because It didn’t take me long to adapt to the native “creole” accent. By doing so, I felt that I was able to relate to the locals of Belize on a far more personal manner. I also was required to hone my Spanish speaking skills on days when schools would visit from predominantly Spanish speaking neighborhoods.
The time I spent educating visitors of the zoo was so much fun and rewarding to me. I found that I fit in so well with the culture and working with Belizean natives brought me back to my childhood in jungles of the little country. When I was growing up in Belize no one thought to tell me how important the rainforest was and, as a consequence, I was sure to give the new generations of students I met a good dose of jungle ecology that the kids seemed to enjoy.
In addition to administering an exciting talk to students before they entered the zoo, I also spent a large amount of my time showing off the wonderful animals that call the Belize Zoo home. Part of my job entailed letting the kids hold the zoo’s boa constrictors, which of course meant that I spent a lot of time handling the powerful snakes. The incredible list of wildlife I talked and handled as part of my job included, but were not limited to: snakes, crocodiles, foxes, jaguars, toucans, tapirs, pumas and howler monkeys. If I had to pick a favorite animal, I would have to say it was the Jaguar. Before going to Belize I had reserved a special place in my heart for these big cats, and seeing them up close day after day only made me love and respect them more. In Belize, jaguars (like all animals at the zoo) are native. However, these beautiful cats are constantly being threatened due habitat loss, prey loss, and most importantly a lack of proper education within the human realm. Therefore, I felt a sense of urgency to speak to my fellow Belizeans about the importance of these big cats and the jungle resources they depend on.
My time at the Belize Zoo was an experience I will never forget and one that I will most certainly use as I pursue a career in the environmental education field. I am most grateful to the Environmental Studies department at Colby College for giving me the chance to live out my dreams in a country that will continue to captivate me which it’s beautiful environment, wildlife, and people.