Four Ways to Help Endangered Wildlife
You are guaranteed to see animals in Belize, whether in the wild or in captivity. When captive animals are held at a Belize Forestry Department–permitted research, rescue, or educational facility, it’s okay to view them, to learn about them, and to take a photo or two. Often, however, these facilities are not licensed and should be avoided.
This is particularly a big a deal for the yellow-headed Amazon parrot (Amazona oratrix), a gorgeous species under serious threat of extinction in the world. Its numbers have plummeted from 70,000 to 7,000 in the last two decades. Human encroachment on their habitat fuels nest robbing for the illegal pet trade.
Belize Bird Rescue (www.belizebirdrescue.com), a nonprofit organization operating on a private reserve in western Belize, reports that 65 percent of all wild-caught captive birds die before they reach sale. Of those that make it, most are sold to people who have no idea how to raise a baby parrot, so the majority die in their first year or grow up with leg, foot, or wing deformities due to malnutrition.
In Belize, some poached birds are sold on the international market, while others end up in Belizean homes or in businesses who want to add “color” to attract tourists. That’s where you and I come in. The following guidelines were provided by Jerry Larder, Director of Belize Bird Rescue, on what travelers can do to discourage the illegal trade in parrots and other animals. Here are his recommendations.
Dos and Don’ts While Traveling
• Do not have your photograph taken with captive indigenous wildlife. By encouraging the keepers of the wildlife, more will be taken from the wild.
• Do not patronize establishments with captive wildlife on display unless they are government sanctioned as a breeding or educational facility such as a zoo. There is no educational value to a single monkey or bird in a restaurant.
• Do not believe anyone who tells you that he “rescued” an orphan animal or bird, unless they are licensed rescue facility. The vast majority of these animals were captured from the wild and/or bought from dealers. If people really want to rescue a bird or animal, they will turn them over to a proper rescue/rehab facility.
• Never buy goods made from animal hides, skins, teeth or claws, or exoskeletons such as bugs and corals. Some leather goods are okay but exotic ones (crocodile, snake, etc.) normally are not. Jewelry made from jaguar teeth has also appeared on the streets being offered to tourists. Buying them contributes to the decline of the remaining jaguar population. In Belize it is also prohibited to sell any products made out of sea turtle.
If you observe any conditions where endangered terrestrial animals are being held in captivity or offered for sale, contact the Belize Forest Department (tel. 501/822-2079). If you observe the sale of turtle meat or jewelry, report the location and date immediately to the Belize Fisheries Department (tel. 501/224-4552).
© Joshua Berman and Avalon Travel from Moon Belize, 9th Edition