Volunteering adventure at Belize Zoo: Sophie Babbs

Before I departed on my Belizean adventure, to carry out the Belize Caribbean wildlife project, with pod volunteer, pod was extremely helpful and answered all of my questions I had, no matter how silly the question seemed to me. The aim of the zoo is to carry out animal rescue and rehabilitation of the orphaned and injured animals. Additionally, the zoo does a lot of conservation work to try and save the native animals from extinction. The zoo staff are trying to do this by, bringing the people of Belize closer to the animals which are their natural heritage. They are hoping to achieve this by educating the public on the importance of these animals. Consequently, the people of Belize will feel proud of these special animals and will want to do their part to protect them for future generations.

Upon my arrival into Belize, I was overwhelmed by everything, the heat and humidity, the different time zone and being far from home. But the guides and staff at both the tropical education centre, where I was staying, and at the zoo where all extremely friendly and welcoming. They quickly put my worries to ease and made me feel at home. As for the heat and humidity, it took me a few weeks to adjust to the climate. But once I did I was fine enjoyed the whole experience that little bit more, not that I was not having an amazing time before then.

Some of the tasks I was required to take part in was: the caring for the animals and the education and conservation side of the zoo too. When I was helping to look after the animals I helped to clean and feed them. This was achieved by shadowing a keeper of a section for a few days and helping them out with the animals in their section. I helped out with the education side of things too, I helped to teach the public about the animals by assisting on zoo tours and animal encounters. Therefore, the public learnt about the different animals and how special they are to Belize. Thus, why they needed protecting. I also helped the zookeepers by having an outsider’s perspective on the things they wanted to do, hence, giving an opinion from someone who hasn’t been at the zoo before.

Although the work at the zoo was hard at times especially in the heat, I learnt loads about the different animals, some of whom I had never heard of prior to attending the placement. Just being able to work with the range of animals they offered, especially the Jaguars and the amazing birds, was a breath-taking experience and I grew to love all of the animals in the zoo. This was the most amazing month ever and went way too quickly. What I found most rewarding from the whole experience was, working and learning about a completely different range of animals. This experience I will carry with me, throughout my life and all of the knowledge I have gained I can use in my university studies as first-hand experience and in my future career.

There was, a few challenges I had to overcome besides the heat. For example, I was really worried about travelling around the country at weekends when I had days off, as I was travelling around on my own. But I managed to overcome my fear and use the busses and if I ever got stuck the local people were all really nice and helped me out. But even little things like how to use airports and what happens if something goes wrong, which happened by me missing a flight due to the approaching hurricane. But I have gained more confidence with all of these challenge’s and I am a lot happier to use airports and not be afraid to use the locals more of transport in the future.

I also learn more about who I am as a person and I have also grown as a person, throughout my time in Belize. I have also gained in confidence and that I can travel and do anything that I want to achieve if you try hard enough. I am also more comfortable at travelling around on my own, and there are always people around to help you if you need help.

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