October 17, 2012
College profs reach out to Belize
Latest funder to make Belize Zoo accessible
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Jamal Andrewin-Bohn is gathering support for the Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center. SUNY Cortland professors and musicians are rallying to fundraise for an accessible pathway and a jaguar exhibit at the zoo.
Jamal Andrewin-Bohn said getting people to think about conserving the environment takes time.
“The days are gone when people yelled at people for cutting down a tree or shooting a deer ... you need to educate,” he said.
Bohn, an environmental educator at the Belize Zoo & Tropical Education Center in Belize, a small country in Central America, is visiting SUNY Cortland this week to highlight the zoo, fundraise for two of its projects and recruit college students to its intern program.
SUNY Cortland professors have had a relationship with the zoo since the 1980s, and several are planning a Belize Zoo fundraiser Saturday at the Blue Frog Coffeehouse. SUNY Cortland students will study accessibility issues in Belize during their break in a recreation course and then help construct pathways to make the zoo accessible to all people.
“Everyone should be able to appreciate wildlife,” Bohn said. “That includes elderly people, moms with strollers, people with wheelchairs. It’s a start to make us more accessible and inclusive,” he said.
The funder will take place 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. at the 64 Main St. shop with music by Steve Corey, The Rolling Prines, Unreal City and Sixteen Reasons Why. Free, with donation. There will be Belize Zoo books and pottery by Jeremiah Donovan, art professor, and students, to benefit the fund.
“It’s going to be big,” said Bohn. “All this money goes to the zoo, a non governmental organization. We live off donations, memberships and various fundraisers now for several projects. We are turning 30 next year,” he said.
The zoo is also fundraising for a black jaguar exhibit featuring Lucky Boy, a black jaguar that was rescued from an abandoned resort in Belize. His photo and story was posted on Facebook and even got Belize people, not just tourists, ired enough to support the zoo, Bohn said.
The animal has been at the zoo for two months and is recovering nicely, he said.
“We went down at the end of June and saw what they were doing, saw the zoo, took tons of video, did a little bit of (construction),” said Vicki Wilkins, a professor in the Recreation and Leisure Department at the college. Fellow professor Lynn Anderson is part of the project as well, she said. The two will take students down during break to take a course in inclusive construction work. They have expertise in the area, since they are part of the Inclusion Recreation Resource Center at the college.
SUNY Cortland has grown it’s relationship with the zoo so it has a study abroad program in Belize, its students do marine work there and it teaches students by a Summer Leadership Teacher Institute there, said Henry Steck, political science professor.
“The advantage of the internship program is that students work in the field, rather than the classroom, so they get hands on experience in a developing country,” he said.
The country is safe, English is its first language, it’s a democracy and it’s inexpensive, Steck noted.
Tourism is its main industry and the zoo, which is devoted to wildlife conservation, is a major stop for tourists from cruise ships and visitors from around the world.
There are 150 animals there, all native to Belize, seen by over 12,000 students alone a year, Bohn said. The tapir, a mountain cow, is the national animal.
The zoo also has toucans, jaguars, monkeys, boa constrictors, harpie eagles, white tailed deer, pumas and gray foxes. None of the animals have been taken from the wild. They were injured, orphaned, born there or are confiscated pets from the government.
Zoo director Sharon Matola managed to reintroduced the harpy eagle, which was extinct in Belize, and sends its rehabilitated jaguars to other zoos around the world.
“We go in and rescue jaguars that are going into villages,” Bohn said.
Often jaguars who are old or injured will go for easier prey in villages since they can’t compete adequately in their natural environment. And with deforestation, that environment is getting smaller. Plus, humans are hunting the same animals they are: deer and wild boar.
“We are encroaching on their land,” Bohn said.
People need to know there are consequences — the jaguars come into the village to hunt — and work with the environment, hunt judiciously, clear trees and replant, Bohn said.
“It’s not just for animals. It affects us, also,” he said.
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