“My First Hurricane”. Hmm. Hopefully I won’t be watching that movie again.
Richard put on his category 1 hobnails and stomped right through middle corridor of Belize. Ironically, Belmopan, aka ‘first fall-back safety zone during a hurricane’, was hit the hardest. Guess where we live? Luckily no birds or animals were harmed during the making of this hurricane, but the roof blew off the home brewery (catastrophe) and a couple of trees collapsed onto our house (a minor inconvenience). The house I actually live in is so over-engineered I managed to sleep through almost the whole thing – eye and all, which is slightly annoying as a) I will probably never see another one again and b) when everyone is oo-ing and aah-ing over how spectacular the eye was, I have to just smile and nod. Seriously though, our little piece of forest was trashed, Guanacaste National Park just a couple miles from us is unrecognisable and all around we hear tales of woe from land owners, conservationists and resort owners alike, who will not see rejuvenation of the damage in their lifetimes. As always it’s the animals that suffer. A natural disaster it may be, but they are as good as a man-made disaster when it comes to knocking back a species. The monkey lady (Wildlife Care Center of Belize) is in bits about her release sites. I haven’t been to see mine since, nor spoken to the owners, but at least a bird has the option of saying “this restaurant is a bit rubbish, lets go somewhere else”. Monkeys find helicopters in short supply once they make the decision to relocate.
Returning just in time for Richard, I enjoyed a quick trip to St Maarten for a Humane Education Workshop, courtesy of WSPA. Tremendous fun and I actually did learn something (and not just that I am too old to drink an entire bottle of red wine and get away with bad karaoke). I learned that Belize is a pig of a place to get to and from - I mean, you really have to want to be here. Maybe that’s why I like it so much; when you can tell people it takes you two days to even get to a place where you can begin your journey, they may understand why you’re a hermit. But I think the best thing I learned was the definitive answer to that constant question “how can you do what you do?” Thank you Lisa for the reply: “how can you not?”
Having made the decision not to sponge off my lovely husband any longer, I bravely signed the lease on a small hotel in town. It is called (and will remain called) the Hibiscus Hotel and pledges to dedicate 50% of the profits from any stay to Belize Bird Rescue. Yay. In truth, it will probably be more like 100% of the profits since our entire life and resources are consumed by these blasted critters. Speaking of resources – you may have noticed I have gone awfully quiet about my new aviaries. We-el… I managed to raise enough money to finish them, only to discover 2 days after completion, that a second batch of wire I had purchased was going rusty. A week later, the whole lot was rusty. And now, 3 months later, I can actually put my fist straight through the wire. 9 rolls in all at $312 each. Aaarggh. So, here we are waiting for funding so we can replace and re-place the wire. So if anyone has a spare few thousand...
One great achievement for animal welfare is a successful grant application to start a Humane Education Programme in Belize. It's just the beginnings, but eyes are upon us (us being the Belmopan Humane Society) and hopefully this will be such a success that next year we can ease the programmee into the National Curriculum and end up with a country full of bunny-huggers in 50 years time. Scoff ye not: with 50% of the population still in school and a flexible, independent education system, it’s not an impossible dream. Hey –Belize could even become the Holy Grail of research into the efficacy of Humane Education. Stranger things have happened.
And finally, a sad event all round. During the hurricane a tree fell on the cage of a captive adult jaguar. He escaped and killed a man. The victim was a great character, big into conservation, he loved to work with animals and was loved and admired for his passion. The couple who had the cat in captivity have worked with wildlife all of their lives. They are amazing photographers and documentary makers and are responsible for setting Sharon Matola up in the zoo so many years ago. They are lovely, gentle people and wouldn’t hurt anyone for the world. The cat was your typical victim of human/wildlife conflict: orphaned, captured, exhibited by a resort and eventually placed in the care of responsible owners who had the misfortune to have a tree come down during a hurricane.
The final score: cat -0 (euthanized) victim – 0 (deceased) custodians -0 (mortified, persecuted, devastated…you name it – and possibly even facing prosecution)
So all of those who are sabre-waving, pointing fingers and blaming left right and centre, just stop and think about the root cause of this entire mess. Hunters. Poachers. And the idiots that buy the spoils. Don’t blame those trying to mop up this mess – look to the wound, not the bandage and wave your sabres at them for a change.