Indian Church, Belize has been my home for and entire month now! The Wildcat project is still moving forward, although it feels as though our momentum is waning, we've moved into our “permanent” residence here at the lodge, and we had the opportunity to get cameras on a new calf kill.
About a week ago, while waiting to meet with landowners, to do camera checks, we received urgent news that our landowner George found a kill site. He had lost three calves (vaquitas) in three days. This was the first one he was able to actually find. We had no choice but to reschedule our meetings for a little later, so we could get to George right away (he is Mennonite, and his mother is in the hospital in Orange Walk, he was on his way to see her when he found the kill). For the project, we opportunistically place cameras on kill sites knowing that cats will return. This particular kill site is very, very close to a kill site from December of last year, on an adjacent landowner's property. This is an interesting pattern, and we're curious to know if this is the same jaguar. We got everything set up, and finished out our week of camera checks. This was our first week checking cameras without our Director Venetia to guide us. It went well enough, somewhat bumpy, but we learned quite a bit that will make things smoother next time.
The very next day we were checking cameras in the Mennonite village of Indian Creek, including the kill site from the day before, of which we did get photos of a jaguar! On our way home our luck began to fade. A terrible grinding noise started coming from the rear passenger side wheel of our Jeep Wrangler. After making it back to the lodge safely, we removed the tire and saw the source of the grinding noise. Something had shifted the axle bearing causing a domino effect of shifting, forcing parts out of alignment. Basically, we need a new axle bearing, and it's going to be a while until we get one, and it gets fixed. Now I realize how much we depend on the Jeep to do our work.
Luckily, this hasn't stopped us! We even got a new camera station installed, expanding our camera grid further south! Thanks to our newest landowner, Carlos, who: picked us up, took us to his property, showed us around, allowed us to set up two cameras, and brought us back, we were able to move forward, and take a step closer to enlarging our study area all the way to the protected lands! We are also excited for what we will see on his land, since he has a large portion of forest that he only uses for hunting right now, and he has personally has jaguars following him.
In other news, we finally have an office space! This has made work at the lodge quite a bit more conducive, at least as far as working with data, which we've been doing a lot without access to the Jeep. Lucky for me, the day we were moving in, I started getting sick with something. My throat became really sore (tonsils hurt like crazy), and that night I'm pretty sure I had a fever; it was an odd feeling to be shivering when the temperature here never drops below 70 degrees or so! I checked the back of my throat with a flashlight and saw white dots on my tonsil. I know the symptoms of malaria and although malaria is rare in this part of Belize it's still a possibility. I consulted my personal expert on strep throat via text message, my best friend Aschlee, since she's gotten strep many times. I've come to the conclusion that I had strep throat, and thanks to finding some local ginger root (a cure-all out in the jungle), I am feel almost 100% again!
Life goes on here at the lodge, we've had news of more calf kills in the village of San Carlos. Matt went out on his own, since I was recuperating, and only found bones of two different calves. Now we're in the midst of trouble shooting next week's camera checks without a vehicle, and a few details of cataloging our photo data, oh so much fun! I feel as though we've accomplished a lot in the last month, and to be honest it has flown by. It's hard not to feel like we're loosing steam since we'd really like to get some more camera stations up and build relationships with new landowners for the project, but aren't able to.
Eventually the Jeep will be fixed though, and this week (after we make it through our camera checks, please cross your fingers it goes well), some researchers are coming to the lodge to study bats, and we will hopefully have the chance to help them out!
At the end of the day though, I'm pretty blessed to be in a place like this! Fieldwork rarely involves living at a “resort” where I can end my day with a cold Belikin Beer. Belikin is brewed at the Belize Brewing Company in Ladyville, Belize. They have four brews, two of which I have tried: Belikin Beer, and Lighthouse Lager. I definitely prefer the classic Beer over the Lager, and have yet to try their Premium Beer, and Stout (not sure if I can send you this Nathan).
Note: I apologize for the lack of pictures on here, so far I haven't been able to load them, but if you want to see photos I have had success loading them onto Facebook, and more should be coming soon!