Ranger Conversation: Victor Bonilla

I just had a conversation with one of our rangers, Victor Bonilla, who recently returned from a 10-day patrol out at Bladen Nature Reserve. He came in to the office today on his day off and I caught him for a moment to ask about his latest foray into the high jungle.

victor-ranger-convo-090213Along with his team, fellow rangers Abelino Zuniga and Alejandro Ical, Victor made daily trips into the nature reserve and one long three-day “long trek” to points further away from the ranger station. The primary job of the long trek was to find and record hunting camps in the forest. Hunting any species is illegal in a nature reserve, but that doesn’t stop some people. A consistent challenge for the rangers and the organization is to prevent local villagers from hunting on protected land, land that while having been hunted for hundreds of years is now restricted to research and educational usage only. The team came across a variety of camps and destroyed them so if the hunters return they know the rangers know they’re there. It’s very rare that the rangers would actually meet the hunters face to face.

Collared peccary, not as common around here as the White-lipped peccary

Collared peccary, not as common around here as the White-lipped peccary

The species most commonly targeted are the white-lipped peccary (whose droves of up to 75-100 individuals have been known to kill jaguars, one of their chief predators), the paca (a 25-30 pound rodent known locally as the “Queen’s rat”), the great curassow (similar to a pheasant), red brocket and white-tail deer and the machaca (a flavorful, yet boney fish).

The patrols also noted significant xate destruction from the clearing of hunting paths. Xate loss is a significant problem in local forests, though normally the problem is caused by illegal harvest by groups called Xateros. Xate is very popular in Europe and the US for floral arrangements and it grows naturally in the Belizean wilderness. But harvesting it from that wilderness is illegal.

Xate

Xate

Another common activity on patrol is bird monitoring. Victor will find a one kilometer stretch of land he wants to monitor. He’ll start at one end and listen for bird calls for 10 minutes, recording the species he hears. Then he’ll head about 200 meters down the line and record what he hears there for 10 more minutes. By the time he’s covered the kilometer, he’ll have stopped at six stations listening for bird calls. On his last patrol he identified 34 distinct calls, and he can recognize over 300 of the 582 birds registered in the Birds of Belize field book. Quite a talent! While doing this he’ll also record any animal tracks he comes across, noting which of the large mammal species frequent that area.

He also told me a story about the last recorded Harpy eagle pair seen in the area. Unfortunately a research group of 18 people all went to see them last April and it’s presumed their presence startled the territorial birds who have since moved to a different section of the jungle. Harpy eagles are the apex raptor species in the area and one of the largest eagles in the world. They skim over the jungle canopy picking off monkeys from the treetops.

After a 10 day patrol, the rangers have five days off. Victor has been using this time to clean up his family’s corn farm, do some personal birding and come to town to run errands.

This is the first of what will be many ranger conversation which we’ll publish here. These hard working men have some really great stories which I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading. Keep checking this site for more updates!

Ya'axche Conservation Trust Rangers, 2009

Ya'axche Conservation Trust Rangers, 2009

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4 Comments »

  1. diane said

    Thanks for the update from the field. Congratulations on making your work more visible to the world and in so doing raising awareness about the importance of your work.

  2. Peder said

    Thank you Diane. We will continue to post updates on all of our efforts. UNDP has been a great supporter and we want to share as much as we can about the great works this partnership is doing!

  3. Watsi said

    Thanks for this website.. I used to work for Ya’axche and I’m really happy to see their progress..

    For Victor: Keep up the good work buddy!! You are the best!!!

  4. Peder said

    Thanks Watsi, we stand on the shoulders of the giants who preceded us. I’ll pass along the message to Victor, and we all wish you the very best in your current and future endeavors!

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