The theme and focus of our trip to Belize is “ecosystem restoration.” In the 21st century, when humans have destroyed such vast amounts of habitat globally, this theme is incredibly important for students to understand. One of the strategies of our curriculum writing is to illustrate the way that all organisms, and furthermore, all abiotic and biotic factors in an environment, are inherently linked in relationship with one another.
Before the trip most of us read a book called “The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw,” by Bruce Barcott. The book tells the story of an American woman named Sharon Matola, who inherited a menagerie of native animals of Belize after a movie filming. She didn’t want to release any animals to the wild, so she stuck a sign on the side of the road that said “The Belize Zoo.” Thus, she opened a refuge for injured and abandoned animals who have become ambassadors for the endangered and non-endangered animals in Belize. Now the the zoo is a major tourist attraction, and it allowed us to see many of the animals which are almost never found in the wild nowadays.
The whole premise of the book is a battle between Sharon Matola and the (corrupt) Belizean government about whether or not to build a hydroelectric dam in the Chalillo valley, which is the nesting ground for the beautiful and rare scarlet macaw. It truly captures the essence of ecosystem dynamics and humanity’s impact on the environment. When we clear and change land to suit our own needs, we never fully grasp the profound changes we have on other species- until they are there no longer.
Long story short, we visited the zoo and high-fived a jaguar named Rocky. It was incredible.