I have not updated this blog lately. This is because I was in holiday in Belize seeing friends and family, but also watching Belize’s amazing wildlife! I’ve decided to do a few Belizean posts before I get back to work at Manchester. The richness of Belize’s biodiversity is astounding, so it seems only fitting that I talk about a few things that fit in with my traineeship as a biology curator.
First of all, I’ll talk about the Baboon Sanctuary. “Baboon” is a local name for the Black Howler monkey in Belize, though the latter is not related to the genus Papio. The sanctuary is a community based project, in which local farmers pledge to leave parts of the forest surrounding their farms standing, so that the Howler Monkeys can remain undisturbed. In addition, small bridges called “baboon crossings” are built so that the monkeys can freely move throughout a wide area.
The Baboon Sanctuary’s museum is small, grassroots and mainly for educational purposes. The objects within the museum are not under strict conservation measures, as their main purpose is to teach visitors what can be found around the area, and they can be replaced easily. For example, this elephant beetle can be handled and viewed.
One of the most unusual things about the small museum, is that bats freely fly back and forth along the ceiling-again, another conservator’s nightmare as bat guano is very acidic and can destroy objects. However, this adds to the charm of the place. Small signs, drawings and photos tell the visitor how the sanctuary was founded and what wildlife can be found within.
But the main attraction was in the sanctuary itself. Our guide, Robert, showed us various medicinal plants the villagers use, pointed out birds and finally, introduced us to the Howler Monkeys. They were having a siesta, but quickly woke up when they spotted Robert, who handed them a newly cut branch of fresh leaves. The monkeys know Robert, but are still wild, so they were wary of us.
The Baboon Sanctuary is a triumph of people living alongside nature while the two co exist, and its museum is an excellent tool to teach people living in Belize and tourists alike about biodiversity.