Wildtracks: Conservation, Research and Education

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Facing my fears......Stefanie's blog!


Those who know me from home know that I am anything but "outdoorsy." I am allergic to pretty much everything and scared of almost all creepy crawly things, especially snakes and spiders. In fact, I was recently told by my doctor that I am allergic to the sun! I am also a bit of a clean freak and a germaphobe. So knowing all that - why would I want to embark on journey to Sarteneja, Belize where I would be facing almost all of these fears...daily?

One great reason - to care for manatees!
 My passion for manatees began when I was 6 years old. My parents bought me a plastic manatee toy while we were down in Florida and few books which explained why they are endangered. The rest is history. I became dedicated to these mammals, writing several research papers in high school and college. I studied every minute detail right down to their vibrissae. When I graduated from college I planned to attend medical school, but first I wanted to dedicate some time to my passion for manatees.

When I came across Wildtracks --everyone joked (but not really jokingly) that I wouldn't last even a week. Here I am almost a month later actually quite disappointed that my time is almost up.
 My first few days were a shock to say the least. I got more bug bites than I could count and a rash over my whole body. I’m used to three meals a day and aside from the snack bars I brought with me, it was hard to find anything I enjoyed eating. I started thinking how in the world I could get myself out of here…and save face?

However, when I got my first chance to get in the water with the manatees everything changed. My first swim with Rameses and Duke was exhilarating. I experienced my first "manatee hug" and felt rejuvenated. Waking up at 5:45 to do my 6 a.m. manatee swim was something to look forward to rather than dread. With a new positive attitude and renewed spirits I was unstoppable. Spiders in my shower became a good thing because they kept other bugs away. My old habits of cleanliness and perfectionism were no longer a big deal - because for the first time I learned how to adapt.

When I was given the role of feeding the baby manatee, Khaleesi, a feeling of extreme excitement took over. As soon as I picked up the bottle and positioned it -- I realized that this is exactly the feeling that I hoped for when I first decided to join the Wildtracks team.
 Not every day is going to be perfect. Days are long and hard work is just a baseline. There are the occasional conflicts and disagreements, and oftentimes when you think to yourself "I can't do this." But the one thing that keeps me going day in and day out, is the knowledge that I am making a true difference in the lives of three manatees. Attitude is everything at Wildtracks, and at the end of the day I always have a smile on my face, grateful that I get to wake up the next morning and spend the day here.
 I am a new person because of my experiences here. I am a stronger, more confident person. In fact, that tarantula 5 feet from me…no big deal!


Published by: Zoe Walker at 2014-03-13 19:42:23   [Link to this article]

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