Shelter From the Storm in Belize

my shelter

Here I am on Jungle Planet to experience the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of anteaters (known as tamanduas in these parts)! The drama of a long delay in Miami was heightened by the news that Tropical Storm Earl is heading straight for Belize. Time will tell—it’s pouring at the moment. So far, Belize feels part Caribbean and part Central American.

The lovely tamandua rescuer and rehabilitator Ella Baron picked me up in her truck at the small airport in Belize City. Turns out I got luckier than I’d felt in Miami and mine was the last flight in. Ella drove us the 1.5 hours (we gabbed gabbed gabbed the whole way) to Caves Branch Jungle Lodge, my home for the next week, and the site of Tamandua Refuge, Ella’s rescue endeavor. My cabin is “rainforest glamping” style and I woke up to this trippy green panorama:

glamppano

The next morning began with an amazing breakfast, which included two new tastes: breadfruit and mammy fruit. Breadfruit tastes a little like yucca or cassava:

breadfruit

The first order of wildlife-rescue business was a short drive to hunt and gather termite nests for the tamandua’s meals. More on that later—that adventure truly deserves its own post. A teaser: it involved machetes!

After lunch, as the resident tamandua snoozed, Ella gave me a detailed stage-by-stage tour of the seven enclosures in which they stay during their rehabilitation process. Each is designed to meet their individual needs—their size, whether or not they are injured, if they can climb (and if so, how high), and so on. Here are just a few of them. They are each custom-made or adjusted for each animal, which requires Ella’s and her staff’s constant ingenuity and improvisation.

dog carrier

A large dog carrier with a safe climbing area. That figure on the left side of the top shelf is a stuffed tamandua, obvs. The babies actually like to cling to these stuffed animals and squeeze them repeatedly with their paws/claws, sometimes two at a time. Sort of like a cat “kneading.” They also do this to Ella’s hands!

 

This plexiglass area is for when the tamandua is ready for a little more movement and climbing.

This plexiglass area is for when the tamandua is ready for a little more movement and open space. The logs and branches are kept low for the safest climbing opportunities.

This "jungle gym" is for when the tamandua is nearly ready for the final outdoor enclosure. Safe climbing opportunities abound.

This “jungle gym” is for when the tamandua are nearly ready for the final outdoor enclosure. Safe climbing opportunities abound. Abe (pronounced “Abby”), the female tamandua that is now sleeping in here, will hopefully be released several hours away in the next few weeks, most likely by the usual team: Ella, Don Luis, and Junior.

This is as close to the actual jungle as it gets for about-to-be-wild tamandua.

This is as close to the actual jungle as it gets for about-to-be-wild tamandua. The darkness simulates the rainforest canopy and the trees and plants are all the same as their release sites. It’s more fabulous than this photo shows.

Leave a Reply