Nestled in Central America on the Caribbean coast between Mexico and Guatemala, Belize lies at the centre of the Mesoamerican "biodiversity hotspot". Pristine subtropical forests provide a refuge for wildlife and conceal ancient Mayan ruins, whilst the warm clear waters of the Caribbean lap sandy Cayes offering access to the world’s second longest barrier reef and a UNESCO World Heritage Site; renowned for its spectacular snorkelling and diving.
Infused throughout is the country’s culture influenced by Belize’s Afro-Caribbean roots, creating a fabulous laid-back atmosphere.
‘No shoes, no shirt, no worries’ is the infamous motto for the Cayes off the east coast of Belize. Throughout your volunteer experience you will have the opportunity to discover famous barrier reefs and marvel at an extraordinary array of colourful reef fish, sharks, rays, sea urchins, anemones, octopus, sea turtles and manatees, who feed on deep green sea grass beds, the worlds underwater grasslands. In your free time, you can also explore this exquisite, undisturbed underwater world as you learn to dive off the Cayes of Belize or dive the world renowned Blue Hole.
Your primary focus on this project will be surveying the population, behaviour and habitat of the West-Indian manatee. Manatees in Belize are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN red list and their numbers are declining rapidly. This species is at risk from habitat disturbance and degradation, pollution, climate change and increasing tourism. Whilst recording manatee sightings and behaviours, in relation to human disturbance and various environmental factors, you will explore, map and monitor vast seagrass beds for the benefit of the manatees and other species that rely on these habitats. You will also have the opportunity to survey and monitor coral reef habitats, populations of reef fish, commercially and ecologically important invertebrate species, and may even get the chance to monitor local shark populations.
Your days will be eventful; the work will be challenging, rewarding and fun. You will have the opportunity to make a valuable contribution to the conservation of this rare and elusive species, whose numbers are rapidly declining. Results from this study will be used to apply further protections to the manatee and the seagrass meadows that they rely on, and encourage restoration work within the seagrass meadows, without which, they will continue to decline. This work will also allow for awareness programmes to be created with local stakeholders and businesses, further protecting these vital populations.
WHAT DOES THE PROJECT DO?
Although Belize is distinguished from its neighbours in being the only country in the region with a British colonial heritage, it also has strong ties to Latin America, as well as to the Caribbean. With one foot firmly planted in lush interior forests and another foot in the laidback and colourful Caribbean Sea, Belize’s animal and plant life are the stars of the country, thanks to conservation efforts from national and international bodies.
The Belizean government is now working with national management partners and international conservation and aid agencies to protect the county’s invaluable biodiversity. As a partner, Frontier work alongside the Belizean Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development, with long term aims to protect and conserve key marine and terrestrial hotspots. This is achieved through local conservation awareness, scientific monitoring & research, community support programs and implementation of protected areas co-management plans, and Frontier volunteers are an integral part of this effort.