Local Man Works to Save Belize’s Manatees

manatees

Even at a young age, Jamal knew that he wanted his life’s work to involve manatees. Now known as “the manatee man” Jamal Galves is the Belize Manatee Project Program Coordinator in his home village of Gales Point but in his own words he says that he is “just a kid trying to save manatees.” However now he has a lot more influence now than he did when he was a teenager.

There were many different threats that combined in order to make the manatees one of the most threatened marine mammals. At one point the people of the land hunted them, but now people have figured out other ways in order to harm them. One of the most common ways to harm a manatee comes from striking them with a boat. Many times they are able to hear the boat coming, but they are not able to swim away fast enough. This happens when people ignore the wake bans where there are manatee habitats.

The identification of the no-wake zones is poorly marked however, and people often don’tslow down, even if the areas are marked clear as day.

“A lot of it has to do with the peoples’ lack of understanding or appreciation for manatees,” Galves says. “They have no respect for wake zones or no reason to comply. To me, it seems like a small, easy thing for them to comply and just slow down.”

This issue along with the issues of pollution, loss of valuable coastal habitat (such as mangroves), and the continued threat of poaching, have been a cocktail for disaster in more recent years.

Unfortunately, it seems to affect the youngest the most. “If a mother and her calf are feeding and a boat comes, the mother’s first instinct is to run. They communicate using chirps at a low volume, and it’s very difficult for them to get back together [after they’ve been separated].”

This is when Galves comes in to help out. When they see an abandoned manatee calf or hear of such an incidence, then they spring into action. They collect the baby manatee that by then is generally in poor health.

This is when they rehabilitate the animal back to health with bottled milk and they help to reintroduce the manatee into the wild. However the costs get to be so high (one milk bottle costs from $14 to $17 American dollars, and they need to be fed a bottle every two hours), so Galves uses fundraising to fund his passions.

Go here to see the original article, and check out this link to donate to their cause.

 

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The Eclectic Music of Belize

music in belizeBelize may be a small country but it has had some big influences. From the impact of the Maya, to influences from both Europe and Africa, Belize has had many different styles of music over history, and integrated all of them into styles unique to Belize itself.

The musical influences of Europe and Africa were at odds, with European music being much more structured and not percussive like the African styles. The quadrilles, waltzes, and other more rigid forms of music and dance found in Europe were nothing like the free and more overt ones of Africa. The African influence encouraged musicians to take up instruments like the marimba, which is similar to the xylophone.

The four main styles of music in Belize now are Kriol, Metizo, Garifuna and Maya. These were the cultures of the greatest influence.

Kriol is the most common music to be heard in Belizean homes. It is the result of the coming together of African and Central American cultures, and is characterized by brukdown, which uses instruments such as guitars, accordions, steel drums, the jawbone of an ass, shells, and banjos.

The Metizo culture’s music is centered around the marimba a percussive instrument, which is known to have come from West Africa., and helps to provide the basis of the Metizo sound.

As for the Garifuna, according to Lorenzo Gonzalez whose article for Belize Adventure was published in Culture and Heritage, Things to See and Do, “The Garinagu proudly showcase their culture and music is a very important part of it. Their most popular music is called Punta: an upbeat dance style tune that revolves around the beating of drums and the movement of your hips. One artist who has done a great deal for Belizean music in the international music scene is Andy Palacio…he tapped into the soulful side of Garifuna music and got people listening instead of only dancing.”

The Maya influence is also very rhythmic, and characterized by the use of the percussive marimba; but another traditional Maya instrument is the Maya harp, which is made using wood from the rainforest.

While other music, such as rap, hip-hop, rock, and metal can be heard in Belize, the more traditional influences are the most popular, even amongst the younger set.

Belizean music is full, rhythmic, and has a rich history. It is wonderful that the inhabitants of Belize have integrated all these various influences into its musical tapestry.

 

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The Rich History of Belize

Belize Real Estate

The first group of people that lived in what is now known as Belize was the Mayans. The Mayan Empire was one of the most sophisticated civilizations of the ancient Americas. They reached their peak in the 6th to 8th centuries AD. However the once great civilization declined in the 14th century. During the 16th century, the Spanish arrived and there was hardly any Mayan influence left.

Though the Spanish ruled Belize, it wasn’t a true ruling, because they mostly saw the area as being good mostly for cutting dye wood.

Belize’s roots, from the outset of colonization, have always been more of a British nature than Spanish. The British gained control over Belize in 1798 when they defeated the Spanish Armada. Great Britain declared Belize was the colony of the British Honduras, which went against the Monroe Doctrine.

Such was the case with many other countries, the economy of Belize declined after World War II. This is what led them to push for independence. Belize became self-governed in 1964, which allowed for the formation of democratic parties and parliamentary rule. Belize City had been destroyed in Hurricane Hattie in 1961 so the new capital had been moved to Belmopan. In 1981 Belize gained full independence and officially became known as Belize.

In recent years, the US government has also helped to stabilize Belize. Large amounts of money were invested in Belize to help with the economy. Due to civil wars in Honduras and El Salvador, Belize has increased in the number of refugees in the area and has increased in the number of native Spanish speakers in the country. Even still, Belize remains very peaceful and tolerance prevails.

Belize invites visitors to slow down, relax, and follow the rhythm of this tiny country.

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