What is the Wildlife Science and Conservation Internship in Belize all about?
The Wildlife Science and Conservation Internship takes place in a wildlife sanctuary of over 1000-acre privately protected area in Central Belize. The area, along with a handful of other neighboring privately protected areas, communities, and stakeholders, forms the backbone of the Maya Forest Corridor. This corridor is a critical biodiversity link between the vast forest reserves in the North and South of the country. The wildlife sanctuary is home to +325 species of birds, 5 species of wild cat (including the Puma, Jaguar, Ocelot, Margay, Jaguarundi), and other endangered mammals such as the Black Howler Monkey and Baird’s Tapir. Its mission is to protect wildlife and promote the integrity of the natural habitat through environmental education, community engagement, research, and sustainable management practices.
The wildlife science and conservation internship focuses on three project areas:
- Yellow-Headed Parrot Project
The Yellow-Headed Parrot (Amazona oratrix belizensis) is an IUCN Red-listed species and is considered in endanger of extinction across its range. In 1994, there were an estimated 7,000 individuals remaining in the wild; 4,700 were considered mature. A range-wide decline was judged to be approximately 90% from the 1970s. In addition to habitat loss, the Yellow-Headed Parrot is the most highly valued Amazon parrot in trade because of its attractive plumage and ability to imitate human speech. Their preferred nest sites are cavities in old-growth pine trees in the lowland savannas. The pine savannas in Belize have experienced annual illegal fires that likely reduce the presence of natural cavities in dead pines and
reduce the overall recruitment of pines. The goal of this project is to monitor the population of Yellow-Headed Parrots in the area and to supplement the natural nest sites with introduced nest boxes to promote productivity and long-term species survival.
- Bird Diversity and Abundance Survey project
With over 327 species reported on the citizen science platform eBird, the sanctuary is one of the top birding hotspots in Belize. Bird diversity data from eBird has provided land managers with a useful inventory of the species present on the Sanctuary but the data collection has been inconsistent at best. The goal of this project is to conduct a thorough inventory of bird diversity and abundance within the Sanctuary and to monitor changes over time.
- Camera Trap Survey
In 2018, the sanctuary installed the first camera trap station along the main nature trail. Surprisingly, the trap captured images of Jaguars and Baird’s Tapir walking casually down the trail within days of setting up the camera station. These outstanding results motivated us to begin a more scientific approach to our camera trap program, so we partnered with Panthera – an organization dedicated to the research and conservation of wild cats – to organize a thorough but short-term survey of the Sanctuary and adjacent National Park. Panthera’s survey has concluded for 2021 at the Sanctuary, but the animals are still here. The goal of this project is to design and implement a longer-term camera trap survey on the sanctuary and make the data available to conservation organizations, researchers, and lawmakers to help emphasize the biological importance of the Maya Forest Corridor.
Why choose this Wildlife Conservation Internship program in Belize?
- Gain field experience conducting scientific research while working with a Non-Governmental Organization focused on conservation and environmental education in Belize.
- Benefit from a well-rounded wildlife conservation program and gain experience worthy of adding to your CV / Resume to help you stand out from the crowd.
- Advance your ability to identify resident and migratory wildlife while fine-tuning your field survey skills with the guidance of a master birder.
- Share your internship experience and the results of the fieldwork conducted with visiting Belizean and international students.
- Explore other Protected Areas and Wildlife Corridors during your volunteer internship program.
Role of the Wildlife Conservation Intern
During the Wildlife Science and Conservation Internship in Belize, interns will have the opportunity to work in the three different project areas mentioned above:
- Yellow-Headed Parrot Project – Interns will work closely with a local birding expert and use protocols developed by the Belize Bird Conservancy for data collection and monitoring efforts.
- Bird Diversity and Abundance Survey project – Interns will learn many skills from this project including bird identification (sight and sound), survey techniques and data collection and file management.
- Camera Trap Survey – Interns will be tasked with designing the survey using standardized protocols, installing the stations, performing maintenance at regular intervals, as well as reviewing and analyzing the images.
A Typical Weekly Intern Activity Schedule
Interns work during the weekdays and have the option of recreational travel, daily chores, and resting on the weekends.
The work schedule commences Monday morning and runs through Friday afternoon, when fieldwork contributions to one or preferably more of the ongoing monitoring projects are active. This is when field guides and internship trainers are available to demonstrate and advise interns individually and as a team.
The workday usually begins early, and breakfast may be prepared as a sack meal to carry with you to have in the field. Bird abundance and diversity surveys are best accomplished during morning hours and on a consistent schedule.
A mid-morning break allows time back to complete field notes, and review and organize the observation data collected. WiFi service is accessible back at camp for communications and searches.
Interns usually eat their lunch at noon.
Afternoon work tasks and hours are flexible, with opportunities for wildlife trail camera and Yellow-headed parrot project tasks. Additional options include conducting online research, developing social media posts, and assisting local staff with ongoing tasks on campus and within the sanctuary (i.e.,
landscaping, gardening, trail maintenance, ranger patrols, fire management test plot monitoring, composting and biochar production, sign painting, etc.).
Dinner is pre-prepared and available in the evening between 5:30 and 6:30 pm.
Lights are out at 9:00 pm for 8 hours of bed rest before waking up at sunrise and resuming fieldwork.
What skills do I need to be a Wildlife Conservation Intern?
An interest in wildlife and observation fieldwork is of course a must! Experience with and/or willingness to learn bird watching, camera trapping, principles of conservation management, environmental studies or a related field is preferred but not required.
To participate, you must be comfortable working in the field for several hours at a time in tropical heat, rain, and often buggy conditions. This internship is meant for anyone seeking to work or study within a science or environmental field, or those who are passionate about conservation action. An interview is required for acceptance into the internship.
Enthusiasm, flexibility, and the ability to work with a team will be paramount to your acceptance into the program.
Travel during COVID times
The health and safety of our travelers and our local communities remain central to our plans for reopening countries and projects. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been adapting our programs and protocols to protect all those involved, and ask for everyone’s patience and collaboration as new rules are implemented in-country. For all projects, new standards of sanitation, procedures and social behaviors are in place, including new health and hygiene protocols and social distancing practices. You can read more here. Each location may be slightly different in the way they operate. We encourage you to inquire to your placement advisor to learn more about your specific project as you plan for your responsible return to travel!
WHY JOIN THE PROJECT
Where will I work in Belize?
About the Location
Centrally located in the middle of the country, you will be located outside Belmopan. The conservation center itself is situated within the 1060 acres of land and focuses on the protection of wildlife and the continuity of the Central Belize Corridor. The accommodation utilizes sustainable practices in rainwater catchment for drinking water and rainwater catchment ponds for utility water, as well as a Biogas Composting Latrine for general use. On-site, you will have plenty of time to explore the campus hammock chilling areas and a basketball court.
You will be accommodated in bunk houses that are clean, comfortable and charmingly rustic. The dorm room lodging is secure and gender separated, with shared bathrooms and showers. An upgrade to a private room with shared bath is available for an additional fee.
What to do in your spare time!
On-site, there are plenty to do from the Sibun River guided Canoe paddling, the tiger cave guided exploration, the Belize Zoo and the Cox Lagoon Crocodile guided canoe paddling excursion. For those wanting to venture further afield, you can tour the Xunantunich Maya Archaeology site, the Blue Hole National Park, the Five Blues Lake Nat Park, the Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Reserve or the Caye Caulker Barrier Reef snorkeling. You can also have the opportunity to do a San Antonio Women’s Coop homestay where you will take Maya cooking classes and clay pottery wheel training workshops to make your own ceramics!
Details & Costs
- Duration: 4+ weeks
- Cost: £3123 / $4874 for 4 weeks
£1102 / $1720 for each additional weeks
- Requirements: Age 18+ and COVID-19 Vaccination
- Location: Belmopan, Belize
- Working hours: Monday to Friday - 6 to 7 hours a day
- Project availability: From October 15th, 2021
- Arrival day: Fridays
What is included
- Accommodation: shared dorm room in lodge
- Food: 3 meals per day
- Airport: scheduled pick-up and drop-off at Belize City Airport (PGIA)
- Access to personal online Kaya Community account including:
- Pre-departure information pack for Belize
- Fundraising Guide
- How to Manage your Money Abroad Guide
- Learning Reflection Guide
- On the ground training:
- On-site orientation
- Project induction provided
- Support: 24-hour support including emergency contact numbers from local team
- Excursion Planning assistance from local staff (activity prices may be extra)
- Certificate on completion of Internship
- Supervision from qualified professional
What is not included
- Routine vaccinations
- Any costs for COVID-19 PCR tests required pre-departure and in-country
Easy 4-step application process
Click here to apply online and pay your application fee to apply for your space on your chosen project. Our advisors will then contact you to guide you through the next steps.
Once we’ve received your application, we’ll review your details and be in touch to arrange your informal telephone interview with your Kaya Placement Advisor.
Following your interview, we will provide you a placement offer. Once you are ready to confirm your placement and dates, you can pay your confirmation fee to book and secure your space.
When you have confirmed your project dates we'll send you your Welcome Pack and lots of other helpful information to assist you with preparing for your placement.
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