Dear Steemit friends, let me take you on an inspiring journey into the world of animal rehabilitation on the island of Roatan in Honduras. Roatan is a small island off the coast of Honduras in Central America called the Caribbean Bay Islands. It is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest reef in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Famous for its pristine beaches, world class dive sites and intricate marine life, including whale sharks.
In the southwest is popular West Bay Beach, home to a coral reef right off the shore. Cruise ships dock in the capital of Coxen Hole and nearby Mahogany Bay to avoid disrupting this beautiful coral reef.
The word “Roatan” is derived from Spanish slang meaning “Island of women”. Both English and Spanish are fluently spoken on the island. The islanders are very friendly and hospitable. For this reason and many more, Roatan has become a saught-after holiday destination.
To find me, look for my Chihuahua's Face
The most popular way to travel to Roatan is by Cruise Ship. In fact, that is how I got there, on-board the beautiful Carnival Fantasy. Roatan is home to a tiny airport that offers a handful of flights daily to mainland Honduras. The port of Mahogany Bay offers first class facilities such as ample shopping outlets, taxi ranks and a tourist information desk.
I had done my research on Roatan prior to arriving. As an animal rights activist, I wanted to make sure I was going to a legitimate rehabilitation facility and not a tourist trap location. Unfortunately, many of us fall for the tourist traps and end up getting suckered into visiting a place that captures animals and forces them to interact with us. Many times at these places, the animals are drugged to make them submissive for those photos.
After extensive research, I finally managed to find a place that sounded like an animal rehabilitation centre. Of course, I wanted to go there and check it out. You can always tell when you meet an animal whether its been mistreated. My ship docked in Mahogany Bay and from there I took a local taxi to the rehabilitation centre.
Meeting Flash the sloth
When I arrived at the rehabilitation centre, I was warmly welcomed by the on-site veterinarian. He explained to me that they rescue animals who are injured and sick, treat them on-site then release them back into the wild. In fact, every enclosure is left open and the animals are free to come and go as they wish. It really is incredible.
The first animal I was introduced to was Flash, the Sloth. Sloths are small mammals known for their slowness of movement. They also spend most of their lives hanging upside down in trees, sleeping. In fact, they sleep so much that they only poop once a week. They sleep a whopping 15-20 hours a day. The unique anatomy of a Sloth allows it to hang upside down for hours without any effect on it's breathing. Studies have shown that this is made possible because their organs are attached to their rib cage, which means they don’t weigh down on their lungs.
There is no doubt that Sloths are adorable, but since they are so slow, why was the one I met called Flash. The reason he was named Flash is because he managed to get every female Sloth in the rehabilitation centre pregnant. He was always the first male on the scene. Speaking of speed, Sloths can move up to 3 times faster in the water. They can also hold their breath for an impressive 40 minutes, suppressing their metabolism to make their heart rate a third of its normal speed.
There are two different species of sloth, two-toed and three-toed. However, this can get confusing as both species have three claws, or ‘toes’, on their hind limbs. In reality, the ‘two-toed’ sloth should really be called the ‘two-fingered’ sloth as the difference between them can be found only on their front limbs.
I wish that the ancient species of Sloth was still around. Today, the modern Sloth is usually around the size of a medium-sized dog. However, ancient sloths, known as ‘Megatherium’, could grow as large as an Elephant. Devastatingly, they became extinct around 10,000 years ago. Imagine how cuddly they would have been.
The tricky thing about Sloths is that their facial structure gives them the appearance that they are constantly smiling. Even if it is experiencing pain, stress or anxiety. At many tourist attractions on the island, Sloth photo opportunities are offered at a cost. This is animal exploitation. Many of the photos offered are to hold the Sloths by their claws or arms with no support at all, causing them to experience high levels of fear and stress. As you can see I was able to hold Flash, supportively and at no cost here at the rehabilitation centre. Once he has been treated for his bladder infection, he will be released back into the wild, where he belongs. You can always volunteer your time or make a monetary donation to these not for profit rescues. Let's help keep wildlife where they belong, in the wild.
Look at that face
After saying goodbye to Flash, I was able to have a quick glance at the babies born at the rehabilitation centre. It truly is something special. Humans are responsible for the devastation of nearly every animal species. The work that places like this put in to helping restore the population is remarkable.
Moving on from the Sloths, I was able to meet Rico the Macaw. Rico was an abused pet kept in a tiny cage. His cage was too small for him to turn around in. He was left on the doorstep of the centre in his cage one night and has called the centre home ever since. Unfortunately for Rico, he cannot return to the wild as he was captured as a baby and has no survival skills.
Rico the Macaw
Macaws are one of the most charismatic and colourful species you’ll find in the wild. A macaw’s facial feather pattern is highly distinctive and thought to be as unique as a fingerprint. As members of the largest parrot family, their size and vivid plumage, along with their rather loud behavior, make them hard to miss amongst the rainforest canopy. Whilst macaws can’t exactly talk, they are famous for their ability to copy human speech.
Macaws are native to Central and South America, found anywhere between Southern Mexico and Northern Argentina. One of the most unusual things about Macaws is that they mate for life. This is exceptionally rare with birds. Although Macaws have no natural predators and can live up to 80 years, almost all macaw species are either threatened, critically endangered or extinct. Along with illegal trapping for use as pets, deforestation and habitat degradation also pose a significant threat to population numbers. Rico is one of the lucky ones, many others are not so lucky.
Next I was introduced to Chico the Spider Monkey. What a cheeky little guy he was. Chico was rejected at birth by his mother. Unfortunately, this happens quite often among monkeys and we don't really know why. Chico has been released into the wild and is a frequent visitor now to the centre. He comes and goes as he pleases. Chico disappears for months at a time and usually comes back after mating season. He is very attached to Edmond, his foster father who raised him until he was old enough to be released. This kind of connection is so special. I am sure it isn't easy every time Edmond has to say goodbye to Chico. Not knowing if he will come back, but this is how Chico's life should be, free.
Chico the Monkey
Spider monkeys are named that way because they hang from trees by holding onto different branches with their limbs and long tails, which are "shaped" like spiders. Spider monkeys do not have a thumb. Their 4 fingers are curved and resemble a hook, which is a special adaptation to life in the forest. Just like the Sloths and the Macaws, the number of spider monkeys are constantly decreasing because of habitat loss, intense deforestation, hunting (indigenous people eat the meat of spider monkeys) and the pet trade. The rehabilitation centre is doing a wonderful job at protecting these monkeys.
Last but not least, I got to stroke some Sugarbears. Native only to Honduras and severely endangered. These Sugarbears were found half-alive in a drain downtown. They have been in the rehabilitation centre ever since. They are nocturnal animals and are very quiet and docile. The only way I can describe them is to say they are the Central American version of a Wombat. Rightfully named as they are the sweetest animals.
Lulu and Maria the Sugarbears
It was an overwhelming experience visiting the animal rehabilitation centre. I love animals and being able to see them strive, heal and be released back into the wild is amazing. The world can learn a lot from this small family run rehabilitation centre. I gave the volunteers a hug and a donation before I left and headed back to Mahogany Bay. On the way back I couldn't resist stopping into a beachside bar for a Pina-Colada. I am not much of a drinker so this was a virgin one. Just as delicious though. As I sat there sipping my drink and reflecting on the touching day I had, I was reminded of home. The bar had Irish shirts up on the wall. My eventual goal is to set up an animal rescue sanctuary of my own in Ireland one day. What a perfect end to the day.
Enjoying a Pina Colada
A little piece of home
I hope you have enjoyed my blog on the Animal Rehabilitation Centre in Honduras, thank you for reading and I look forward to sharing more adventures with you, until next time, Vegoutt Everybody!!