Manatees and Monkeys - Nicole shares her experiences as a Wildtracks volunteer
I first read about Wildtracks on Facebook this summer, a post about the manatee calves shared by a friend of a friend. It seemed like fortunate timing since I was already planning a trip to Central America so I sent an application, thinking that it sounded like a great place volunteer. It was my first time volunteering abroad, first time in Belize, and first time working with animals other than dogs and cats so I set off with no real idea what to expect. And I loved it.
I was leaning toward working with the manatees when I arrived and that’s where I started out. My very first day I got to swim with each of them: Rhamases, Khaleesi, Mitch, and Lucky. It was an amazing experience to get to see manatees up close and get to know their personalities. After a couple days I got to start learning how to prepare Rhamases meals: about three bottles, four times a day, and buckets upon buckets of seagrass. This boy has a very healthy appetite! I also helped collect seagrass by swimming or canoeing out into the middle of the lagoon and picking the grass off the seafloor. Rhamases definitely keeps the volunteers busy with this, usually eating at least two five-gallon buckets each day.
After a couple weeks at Wildtracks I was offered the opportunity to work with Kat, one of the baby howler monkeys. Kat is in quarantine as she came in with scabies and she has to be cleared before she can be integrated with the other babies: Innie, Maggie, and Vickie. So I got to work with her one on one and just fell in love with this happy, energetic little girl.
My day would consist of getting up and feeding Rhamases around six a.m., then changing into my “quarantine clothes” and going up to the nursery to feed Kat her breakfast and take her for a walk. Then most of the day would be spent with her in her outdoor play enclosure, about two hours at a time with breaks in between. Then I would put her to bed (and incidentally found that monkey babies do not like bedtime any better than human toddlers) and go feed Rhamases his dinner, usually getting to watch the sunset over the lagoon while I did. Not a bad day. Kat is a pretty entertaining companion to spend the day with and loves to show off. Every time someone new was in sight of her enclosure she would race over to get a closer look, grinning and swinging around and making happy sounds. She particularly loves sunny days where she can lie in the branches at the top of her cage and soak up some rays. She also loves to watch the other babies in their nearby enclosure and I can’t wait to see them all together someday, becoming a troop of wild monkeys! (Well, wilder.)
Paul, Zoe, and all the Wildtracks volunteers are incredibly hardworking and dedicated to the recovery of all these animals. I really feel lucky to have been a part of this project for a little while and would love to return someday.
Published by: Zoe Walker at 2015-02-03 22:18:29 [Link to this article]
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