These are some of the great experiences students and interns had with the Belize Wildlife and Referral Clinic, the Wildlife Institute and our partners who work on the front lines of wildlife conservation in Belize and the region.

"Justin and Dr. Isabelle were so involved with my learning experience"

The time I spent at the BWRC was invaluable, indescribable, and in every aspect, life changing. How could I even begin to describe my internship when words fall so short of my actual experience? The BWRC not only gave me an insight to veterinary medicine in a way that no other internship has given me, but also an indescribable feeling of camaraderie for which Belize now feels like my second home. Justin and Dr. Isabelle were so involved with my learning experience, making sure that I was absorbing every bit of information, answering all my questions, and having the time of my life. While other veterinary internships I’ve been involved with merely had me observe and standby, Dr. Isabelle and the BWRC had me truly be engaged with the entirety of the process. I was the one administering vaccinations, catching and handling the animals, doing the x-rays, overlooking anesthesia, sitting on a crocodile during surgery, and so much more. It was the most hands on I could have been as an intern, with their guidance and patience leading me in any direction I chose to go. Of course, being within the field of wildlife, the days are unpredictable where you don’t know how the day will go or what you’ll get. However, at the end of the day, I feel as though that’s the best part of the experience, that’s what makes it so real. One day you could be getting only domestic cases, but the next you have an emergency howler monkey coming in or boa constrictor or even a manatee. The stochastic nature of working with wildlife and especially working with wildlife in a developing country calls for ingenuity, strength, patience, and heart. All of which I’ve seen and experienced working with everyone at the BWRC. It was never, “hey this is too chaotic for you to be here” but more so “how can we as a team work together to save this animal, solve this problem, build this better?” It was the most real and involved situation I could have been in, and for which I have utilized the knowledge I’ve gained from working at the BWRC over and over again. The BWRC felt more like my family than just an organization. They were involved with my academic, career, and personal growth, and still are part of my life today. I honestly don’t know how the direction of my life would have gone if I hadn’t worked at the BWRC, and I am so eternally grateful to have been with them. All I’ve seen since my time there is improvement and growth, and for anyone presented with the opportunity to work with them, I give my highest recommendation to do so.
Helen Sung,
UCLA Pre-vet, 2014

"tailored to our individual interests and surpassed our expectations"

Dr. Isabelle and Justin were kind enough to facilitate a personalized clinical rotation for me and four other classmates from Michigan State. Rather than spending 3 weeks at Belize Wildlife Referral Clinic, we were invited to complete the first 1-2 weeks at ARCAS in Guatemala. As someone who has visited Belize a handful of times but never had an opportunity to cross the border into Guatemala, I was thrilled with the idea of a new adventure. On the other hand, we had no clue what to expect. ARCAS had never hosted veterinary students for a clinical rotation before. We would usually have a lecture with Dr. Alejandro and / or Dr. Fernando each afternoon and participated in treatment of hospitalized animals. Some days, we would plan an enclosure-wide capture of animals to perform physicals, get blood samples, and give dewormer / ivermectin as needed. Daily life at ARCAS was quite rugged. We slept in a screened bunkhouse, ate meals with the crew in the commissary, and completed daily chores. These chores always included preparing diets and cleaning enclosures; manual labor was thrown in at random. This new lifestyle hit us like a ton of bricks and we experienced emotional ups and downs. The harder we worked, the more involved our clinical experience became. The development of camaraderie, trust, and respect was like nothing I had ever experienced. Dr. Alejandro and Dr. Fernando tailored to our individual interests and surpassed our expectations. ARCAS houses hundreds of animals and the doctors exposed us to all kinds of species, building our confidence in wild animal restraint & medication delivery through various routes. The doctors at ARCAS are wonderful, brilliant people that went above and beyond in providing us with a life-changing experience. We spent the latter end of our rotation at Belize Wildlife Referral Clinic in a more intimate, organized setting. Dr. Isabelle aimed to provide lessons to suit each of our individual interests. We even spent one morning touring the slaughterhouse next door upon my request, the future cow vet. I learned a few tricks and technical skills that have come in handy with exotics on other rotations. The entire experience between the two facilities was a perfect way to explore different forms of wildlife medicine. It was also a fantastic adventure and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Chelsea van Assche,
University of Michigan College of Veterinary Medicine, 2015

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