Posted: Saturday, May 9, 2020. 2:59 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: This week, there have been sightings of wild animals in urban limits and on farms, as they have been pushed out of their natural habitats by ongoing bush fires.
According to PLUS TV in Belmopan, a howler monkey was seen climbing electricity wires on the outskirts of the capital, while elsewhere in Cayo, a juvenile howler monkey was bit in the head by a dog on a farm.
In the latter case the rescuer was able to intervene and get the monkey to the Belize Wildlife Referral Clinic (BWRC) in Unitedville, where it was placed in intensive care with a concussion and potential skull fracture.
This week we spoke via email with veterinarian and BWRC founder Doctor Isabelle Paquet-Durand who estimates that potentially “thousands” of wildlife may have died in the recent spate of wildfires in the Cayo and Toledo Districts, though she notes that there must be an assessment of habitats lost in fires and an estimate of the population sizes for different species.
BWRC’s vision is wildlife conservation and sustainable development in cooperation and BWRC’s mission is to support wildlife conservation through veterinary care, rehabilitation and education. BWRC is a teaching veterinary clinic and provides free care for imperiled wildlife. If you see a wild animal in trouble, or a wild animal is giving you trouble you can call their 24/7 phone to get assistance. BWRC does also offer training and accepts some volunteers and as a non-profit, they appreciate any and all support in fundraising.
Doctor Paquet-Durand told us the problem is aggravated not just in the losses of monkeys, cats, tapirs, toucans and amphibians and reptiles, to name a few, but also that it is “baby season” for most of these animals and many of their offspring may not have survived.
For those displaced, she states, they seek food and shelter but can become a problem for humans – whether in depredations on farms or as victims of trafficking.
BWRC’s clinic has 32 “patients” but there were only ten rescued directly during the current State of Emergency, “which is less than usual but likely related,” Doctor Paquet-Durand notes. The worry is that there are many such displaced or orphaned animals in need who will not be found or reach care. The intake is not representative of the potential figure of displaced or orphaned animals.
BWRC’s intake has picked up only in the last ten days after the national quarantine closed all transport except for essential movement.
Needless to say, Doctor Paquet-Durand comments: “… I am certain that the human-induced wildfires are not going to be sustainable for human health or the continued existence of healthy wildlife populations. I sincerely hope that in future seasons people will follow the rules and control fires once they are allowed again, or even better use different methods? It’s not just about animals it’s about our own human health in today’s world.
Those who come into contact with such animals are recommended not to handle them yourself unless you are trained, to minimize safety risks. Call BWRC at 615 5159 or 632 3257 or email [email protected] (for non-emergencies and wildlife-related questions) (both numbers are on WhatsApp as well). The Clinic will advise what to do over the phone and is also able to respond in person. Remember that wild animals carry diseases such as rabies which can be fatal to humans.
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