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My summer 2013 - can you Belize it? Contributed by Ed


I’m writing this blog from the porch of a house in Belize, which serves as the main base for a rehabilitation sanctuary for monkeys, manatees and a whole number of other endangered animals. In fact, it’ll have to be a fairly quick blog, as a new manatee calf and an infant spider monkey should be arriving for some intensive care in an hour or two!

Earlier this year, when all my housemates and course mates were sorting out their internships and placements, and I realised I had not yet secured any constructive plans for my own summer, I took to the internet to try and track something down. This led me to the Global Nomadic site (www.globalnomadic.com). Although I had no experience in primate rehabilitation, I applied for the monkey rehabilitation placement and, after filling out the application form online and forgetting about it for a month or so, I got an email telling me that I’d been accepted.

I tackled the application process in a very similar way to a job application (although there weren’t any interviews). There was a section to attach my CV, and the rest of the form essentially went over what would be included in a covering letter, but in much greater detail i.e. what I can offer the organisation, what I hoped to gain from the placement, and why I had chosen to apply in the first place, and made my application through the Global Nomadic website.
I’ve only been at the centre for two days so far, but I’ve been made to feel very at home. Belize is an English speaking country, which helps a bit, and the others on placement are largely American and Canadian. I’ve also been introduced to all the animals and the photo is of me with Duke, a male manatee, after feeding and scrubbing him down. So far I’d say the experience has been a bit of a test! I flew into Mexico then spent a day and a half taking buses down to Belize and, as I don’t speak a word of Spanish, this was a bit tricky at times. However, I’m now more confident travelling on my own and I feel much more independent.

So I have now entered my third week of a five week internship, and I am having one of the best times of my life! It is definitely hard work but, not only has it really confirmed what I wanted to do with my life after university (which is pretty reassuring), it has given me a wealth of experience that should help me get the next qualifications or placements I need. The leader of my internship has also agreed to act as a reference for academic qualifications I apply for, which is even more of a bonus as I might start applying for PhDs this year.

My standard day here is getting up at 6:30am to feed the monkeys; this involves going into their cages and feeding them fruits, as well as mucking them out, and more often than not getting my hair groomed before I can escape. Then I help with a manatee feed, which involves catching a juvenile manatee in a large sheet and lifting it just far enough out of its water to bottle feed it some milk. After that I take the Centre’s lone Neotropical otter out for a swim in the lagoon, where she can forage for fish and crabs, and then back into her cage when we’re done swimming. Then there’s another monkey and manatee feed before lunch. Afterwards there’s the third monkey feed of the day, we feed the otter again, and feed the centre’s other (larger and older) manatee. Finally we feed the monkeys once more and that’s usually it for the day, although we also carry out some basic maintenance around the centre too.

All of this should give me more to talk about in interviews, as well as being a fun experience. From aspirating a manatee, to tracking troops of howler monkeys through the jungle, I’m hoping it’ll set me apart from other candidates.
I’m taking a few days off the placement now to go travelling through Belize with another intern and someone who just completed their master’s project here, which is another advantage to doing an internship in a foreign country. For anyone else interested in a biological/conservation internship Wildtracks, I would strongly recommend it!


Published by: Zoe Walker at 2013-09-09 18:38:21   [Link to this article]

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